7/25/2003 Newsletter


  • Neighborhood Outreach
  • Lynne Steward Case

We've gotten a wonderful last-minute opportunity to table at the Southside Community Festival tomorrow. The festival runs 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and will be held at Green Central Park, 3450 4th Avenue South. There will be free food, great entertainment and lots of prizes (including kids bikes) given away. We will be getting out the word on our lawsuit, taking affidavits and getting signatures for the patterns and practices complaint. Come join us!

We've been flyering neighborhoods about our community class action lawsuit and getting a great response. We generally go out in small teams for a few hours after work. We've also had success flyering downtown during daytime hours. With more help, we could reach even more people. If you like talking to folks, this is a great opportunity to do something positive for the people of our community. It's also a lot of fun.

Please get involved! If you can spare a few hours, please call Bill at 612-703-1614 or email him at [email protected] . You can also call our hotline at 612-874-STOP for more info.

MAJOR VICTORY IN LYNNE STEWART CASE: Post 9/11 Repressions Not Holding Up
People's lawyer Lynne Steward is being prosecuted simply for defending her court-appointed client, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. In the post 9/11 political climate, lawyers who are just doing their jobs could be prosecuted for defending anyone accused of terrorism. With the government's deliberately broad definition of terrorism many people, then, become indefensible. While just a partial victory, this is sweet indeed.

July 23, 2003
Judge Dismisses Terror Charges Against Lawyer

A Federal judge yesterday dismissed charges that the lawyer Lynne F. Stewart supported terrorism by helping an imprisoned sheik direct terrorist operations in Egypt. But the judge let stand lesser charges that she lied to and defrauded the federal government.

Ms. Stewart was accused of helping Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted of plotting to blow up New York landmarks, by helping him to pass messages to the Islamic Group, a terrorist group he once led. The charges were announced in April 2002 by Attorney General John Ashcroft, who called the case the first use of a new rule that allows the Bureau of Prisons to monitor conversations between lawyers and inmates who are threats to commit "future acts of violence or terrorism."

In his ruling yesterday, Judge John G. Koeltl of United States District Court called the terrorism counts against Ms. Stewart and a translator unconstitutionally vague. The judge said that the antiterrorism statute could not apply to a lawyer doing her job.

"The government fails to explain how a lawyer, acting as an agent of her client" who is an alleged leader of a terrorist organization "could avoid being subject to criminal prosecution as a 'quasi-employee,' " said Judge Koeltl, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

The charges that remain accuse her of making false statements and conspiring to defraud the government through what prosecutors say was her broken promise not to be a conduit for Mr. Abdel Rahman.

Ms. Stewart, who has defended such unpopular clients as members of the Weather Underground and the mob informer Salvatore Gravano, suggested in an interview with The New York Times in 1995 that violence and revolution were sometimes necessary to right the economic and racial wrongs of America's capitalist system.

Yesterday, she called the ruling "a great relief," and addressed its broader implications. "It augurs well for things returning to a normalcy where the judges and courts are able to take a good look at what the government is doing, and consider what it's doing and stand up for the judicial branch and for justice," she said.

Prosecutors said they were exploring possibilities of an appeal. "We continue to believe that the statute prohibiting material support of terrorism is constitutional, and we are reviewing our appellate options," said a spokesman for James B. Comey, the United States attorney in Manhattan.

Ms. Stewart was indicted in April 2002 after visits she and a translator, Mohammed Yousry, made to the Minnesota prison where Mr. Rahman, a blind cleric, is serving a life sentence. Prosecutors said that in May 2000, she distracted prison guards during a visit with her client while Mr. Yousry took instructions from him that were later passed on to the Islamic Group in Egypt.

Mr. Abdel Rahman's instructions included a message to his followers in Egypt that they should no longer honor a halt in terrorist activities that began after a 1997 attack in Luxor, Egypt, that killed 62 people, including 58 foreign tourists. The Islamic Group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Ms. Stewart has denounced the charges since her arraignment, when she said on the courthouse steps, "They've arrested the lawyer and the interpreter. How much further? Are you going to arrest the lady who cleans the sheik's cell?"

Her lawyer, Michael E. Tigar, argued in motions that the antiterrorism statute violates the First Amendment. "It endangers the rights of people, lawyers, journalists and citizens to assert certain political views," he said yesterday.

The charges carried a 15-year sentence. The prosecution, in court papers filed in March, called Ms. Stewart "an indispensable and active facilitator of the terrorist communication network," and compared her to a "bank robbery co-conspirator who has the job of distracting security guards while others take money from the tellers, or a lookout guarding a drug dealer's corner."

Ms. Stewart rejected the claims again last night. "It's so broad that you can sweep anybody under its rug," she said of the statute. "A conduit of communication. How could you not be if you're taking phone calls from your client?"

Mr. Abdel Rahman is subject to strict security rules imposed by the government on him and certain other prisoners who are considered to pose continuing threats of violence. Ms. Stewart signed a form in May 2000 agreeing to the rules before a visit, and the government charged her in the indictment with not complying with them. Ms. Stewart said she hoped those charges would be dismissed "as a factual matter" after the hearing next month.

The case brought widespread attention because of Ms. Stewart's notoriety as an outspoken lawyer, and because of its possible implications for lawyers representing clients accused of terrorist links. "We tried to mount a real defense and organize as many people as possible," she said yesterday, "to understand that what was at stake here was the ability of defense counsel to fully represent and make decisions concerning political clients."

Also charged in the case was Ahmed Abdel Sattar, a postal worker from Staten Island, and Yassir al-Sirri, an Egyptian who was arrested in Britain in 2001 and charged with conspiring in the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the commander of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

Communities United Against Police Brutality
2104 Stevens Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)

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