10 January 2014

Defiant Lynne Stewart Finally Released

On December 31, leftist attorney Lynne Stewart finally left behind her the prison walls that have been “home” for the past four years after her frame-up conviction in a “war on terror” show trial. Terminally ill with Stage IV breast cancer, the 74-year-old Stewart walked out of the Federal Medical Center Carswell, a women’s prison hospital in Texas, and flew home to New York City, where she was greeted by family and friends. This brought to a close her months-long fight for the right to die at home surrounded by loved ones, a demand supported by more than 40,000 petitioners worldwide.

After months of obstruction, the Justice Department finally allowed U.S. District Judge John Koeltl, Stewart’s trial judge, to order her release on the grounds of her “terminal medical condition and very limited life expectancy.” The relief of Stewart’s supporters is tinged with the bitter knowledge that federal authorities had vindictively prolonged her imprisonment knowing her terminal condition. In fact, from the working-class point of view, this partisan of the downtrodden and oppressed should not have spent a single day behind bars.

In 2005, Stewart was convicted of giving material support to terrorism when representing blind Egyptian Islamic fundamentalist cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted for an alleged plot to blow up New York City landmarks in the early 1990s. The purported “material support” was to communicate her client’s views to Reuters news service. Her Arabic translator Mohamed Yousry and paralegal Ahmed Abdel Sattar were also convicted. These watershed convictions gave the capitalist government a green light to prosecute lawyers as co-consipirators of their clients—a frontal attack on the right to counsel enunciated in the Constitution’s Sixth Amendment. Originally sentenced to 28 months in prison, Stewart was resentenced in 2010 to ten years at the instigation of the Obama administration.

An unbowed proponent of 1960s New Left radicalism, Stewart dedicated her adult life to keeping Black Panthers, militant leftists and others reviled by the capitalist state out of the clutches of its prison system. As she wrote in a message to the New York City gathering of the Partisan Defense Committee’s Holiday Appeal for class-war prisoners last month, among her clients were Jaan Laaman and Tom Manning of the Ohio 7 (see article on page 3). When Stewart ultimately found herself walking in the same shoes, she embraced that role without blinking. And her incarceration did not break her in the least. When she arrived at LaGuardia airport, she told her supporters, “I’m going to work for women’s group prisoners and for political prisoners.”

The Spartacist League and PDC have stood by Stewart and her codefendants from the beginning, despite our differing political outlooks, and have fought to publicize her case in the broader workers movement. This is an expression of non-sectarian, class-struggle defense of cases that are in the interests of the entire working people. The government’s barbarous treatment of this individual, whose “crime” was to zealously fight in the courts to uphold the rights of the oppressed that are purportedly sanctified in the Constitution, is itself an indictment of the class bias of American bourgeois justice. For champions of Stewart’s defense and that of all the class-war prisoners, let this be a clarion call to join the fight to mobilize the multiracial working class to sweep away the entire system of capitalist exploitation and oppression—and the “justice” system that enshrines it—through socialist revolution.

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1037, 10 January 2014)

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