4 March 2011

Vindictive Transfer to Texas Prison

Free Lynne Stewart Now!

Last December, radical lawyer Lynne Stewart was transferred to FMC Carswell prison in Fort Worth, Texas. The government vindictively denied her request to be sent to a prison in Connecticut, instead locking her up more than 1,000 miles away from her family and core of supporters in New York. Known for her decades-long defense of Black Panthers, radical leftists and others reviled by the capitalist state, Lynne Stewart was incarcerated for zealously defending her client, an Egyptian cleric imprisoned for an alleged plot to blow up New York City landmarks in the early 1990s.

Stewart, along with her interpreter Mohamed Yousry and paralegal Ahmed Abdel Sattar, was convicted in February 2005 of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism and to defraud the U.S. government. What constituted “material support” was Stewart’s statement to a Reuters reporter that her client urged his supporters in the Islamic Group to reconsider their cease-fire with the Mubarak dictatorship. As we wrote at the time of the conviction in WV No. 842 (18 February 2005): “The verdict gives the government a green light to prosecute lawyers for the alleged crimes of their clients, thereby shooting the basic right to counsel to hell.… And if nobody can get a lawyer to zealously defend him from prosecution, then fundamental liberties, from the right to a trial and an attorney, to even the right of free speech and assembly, are choked.”

Stewart was originally sentenced to 28 months in prison. On 15 July 2010, federal district judge John Koeltl, who was directed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to resentence Stewart, more than quadrupled her original sentence. This is a loud affirmation by the Obama administration that there will be no letup in the massive attacks on democratic rights under the “war on terror.” Stewart is currently appealing her conviction before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. As for her codefendants, Yousry is imprisoned on a term of 20 months while Abdel Sattar was additionally convicted of conspiracy to “kill and kidnap persons in a foreign country” and is locked away for 24 years. None of them should have been charged or spent a day in prison.

In sentencing Stewart to ten years, the government is essentially seeking to impose a death sentence on this 71-year-old woman who has been battling breast cancer and chronic diseases. Her transfer to FMC Carswell places her health at even greater risk. The reality of “Federal Medical Center Carswell” prison has been extensively documented by Betty Brink, an award-winning journalist with the Fort Worth Weekly. Brink has written numerous exposés chronicling the deaths of prisoners through “medical mistakes, substandard care and unconscionable delays” in treatment, to use the words of a former Carswell doctor. Eight prison employees have been convicted of rape and other crimes against the inmates at this women’s prison.

Speaking at the January 21 New York City Partisan Defense Committee Holiday Appeal for Class-War Prisoners, Stewart’s husband, Ralph Poynter, conveyed a defiant message from her: “I’m going to continue speaking out about what’s wrong with this government.” He had recently returned from Texas, and described the ordeal both he and Lynne went through just to be able to see each other, with prison officials forcing him to wait more than three hours to get into the visiting room. Poynter thanked the PDC—which recently added Stewart to its monthly stipend program—for continuing to defend her when some liberals abandoned her cause. He also read Lynne’s greetings to the event, in which she roundly denounced the FBI persecution of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, pro-Palestinian activists and other leftists (see “FBI Infiltration Exposed” WV No. 973, 4 February):

“We stand strong with the resisters who elect not to become part of the same prosecution team that has terrorized the world. Now the so-called Department of Justice (ha!) has decided to focus on support groups of the world’s peoples and also on ecoterrorism. Why? Because they can! It sends a message to the people that it’s dangerous; don’t join, don’t resist. That message once again must be shouted down, first by the resisters who will go to jail and second by us, the movement who must support them by always filling those cold marble courtrooms to show our solidarity and speaking out so that their sacrifice is constantly remembered.”

The defense of Stewart and her codefendants is an elementary duty for socialist opponents of U.S. imperialism. Yet in their capitulation to “respectable” bourgeois liberals who sought to separate Stewart’s defense from that of her codefendants, Workers World Party, Socialist Action and the Party for Socialism and Liberation have abandoned the defense of Yousry and Abdel Sattar, refusing to raise the call for their freedom. National Lawyers Guild attorney Liz Fink, who quit the legal team just days before Stewart’s resentencing, filed court papers that despicably attempted to exonerate Stewart by framing up Yousry! The prosecution seized on this in the resentencing to mock the defense team. Stewart, to her credit, directed the defense attorney to reply that those were Fink’s words, not Stewart’s.

Lynne Stewart must not become another forgotten person locked up in this country’s vast prison system. The government vendetta against her and the other class-war prisoners is intended to intimidate and silence opponents of racist oppression, capitalist exploitation and imperialist war. It is in the vital interest of the labor movement and all defenders of civil liberties to demand immediate freedom for Lynne Stewart, Mohamed Yousry and Ahmed Abdel Sattar.

The PDC has contributed to Stewart’s legal defense fund and encourages others to do the same. Send donations to: Lynne Stewart Organization, 1070 Dean Street, Brooklyn, New York 11216. Letters can be mailed to: Lynne Stewart, #53504-054, FMC Carswell, Federal Medical Center, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 975, 4 March 2011)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.