Defend Lynne Stewart, Mohamed Yousry, Ahmed Abdel Sattar!

This article is an edited reprint from Workers Vanguard No. 865 (3 March).

It is urgent that fighters for civil liberties and black and labor rights rally to the defense of leftist attorney Lynne Stewart, translator Mohamed Yousry and paralegal Ahmed Abdel Sattar. The three were convicted in February 2005 on frame-up charges of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism and to defraud the U.S. government. Sentencing has been rescheduled to September. The 66-year-old Stewart, who has been diagnosed with cancer, faces more than 20 years in prison—an effective life sentence. Her “crime” was her vigorous legal defense of Islamic fundamentalist cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who is serving a life sentence for conspiracy to blow up NYC-area landmarks. Yousry also faces more than 20 years, while Abdel Sattar may get a life sentence. These convictions are outrageous attacks on the Sixth Amendment right to an attorney as well as everybody’s free speech rights.

Stewart’s alleged crime consists of making the views of her imprisoned client known to a Reuters journalist, in violation of unprecedented and patently unconstitutional Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) devised by the Clinton government. The government’s case was based on hundreds of hours of videotaped and recorded discussions between the sheik and his attorney that are supposed to be free from government snoops. The prosecution was allowed to play inflammatory and irrelevant videotapes of Osama bin Laden during the anniversary week of the September 11 attacks—in a courtroom located within walking distance of the World Trade Center! Following the trial, one juror wrote to the judge that she had been pressured by the witchhunt atmosphere of the deliberations into voting for conviction, against her better judgment. She had been told by another juror that if she didn’t vote to convict, it would be her fault if anyone died in a terrorist attack.

In an October ruling rejecting defense motions to overturn the verdicts, U.S. District Judge John Koeltl cited a previous court ruling that “speech is not protected by the First Amendment when it is the very vehicle of the crime itself.” But even the U.S. attorneys who prosecuted the case admitted that no crime occurred, that no terrorist attack resulted from this fabricated “conspiracy.” As we stressed in “Lynne Stewart Denied New Trial” (Workers Vanguard No. 860, 9 December 2005), the government’s aim “is not only to scare away any lawyer from defending a client with unpopular views but to criminalize dissent.”

Stewart’s translator, Mohamed Yousry, is a graduate student who had been carrying out research for his doctorate on Abdel Rahman on the recommendation of his New York University department chairman, Zachary Lockman. In a Los Angeles Times (6 February) opinion piece, Lockman wrote that if this conviction is allowed to stand, “We may well see other translators prosecuted for doing their jobs, and other scholars facing jail terms for conducting research on controversial issues.” But the Bush administration has not always been getting its way in its attempt to silence critics of government policy. In December 2005, the six-month trial of Palestinian rights activist Sami Al-Arian, former University of South Florida professor, and three co-defendants, who faced 51 charges related to “supporting terrorism,” ended in acquittal or a hung jury on all counts. Al-Arian still faces retrial and possible deportation. Government hands off Sami Al-Arian!

Since her conviction, Lynne Stewart has continued speaking out against government repression, including at a Partisan Defense Committee rally in NYC in support of her struggle and in defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal and Assata Shakur (see “Lynne Stewart Speaks at NYC Rally,” WV No. 855, 30 September 2005). Stewart was targeted particularly for her lifetime of legal practice in defense of victims of repression and racist injustice. What next? Will publishing a column by Mumia, who was framed up in effect as a “terrorist” for his political views, be considered “material support to terrorism”?

This “war on terror” prosecution threatens the rights of all who would fight against anti-immigrant bigotry, racial oppression and attacks on labor. Just as the prosecution of Stewart, Yousry and Abdel Sattar has ominous implications, so too does powerful protest in their defense have broader portent. The capitalist courts have made clear their intention to seal their fate behind bars. The labor movement and all defenders of democratic rights have every interest in fighting against this frame-up.

To confirm the date of the sentencing hearing, check To contribute to Stewart’s defense, send donations to: Lynne Stewart Defense Committee, 350 Broadway, Suite 700, New York, NY 10013.