In America’s “war on terror,” normal actions, such as lawyer Lynne Stewart passing a client’s message to friends, became criminalized. Stewart was imprisoned, likely speeding her death from cancer, reports Dennis J Bernstein.
By Dennis J Bernstein
Civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart, who died March 7 from cancer, saw her condition worsen while she was in prison as a result of her legal representation of Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian cleric who was convicted of planning terror attacks. The U.S. government then won a conviction against Stewart for passing on messages to the Sheikh’s friends and supporters.
Journalist Chris Hedges wrote about Stewart in 2014 after Stewart was released having served four years of a ten-year sentence. Suffering from terminal cancer, she received a compassionate release after thousands protested and signed petitions against her continued incarceration.
Hedges wrote: “The lynching and disbarring of civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart, who because she has terminal cancer was recently released from prison after serving four years of a 10-year sentence, is a window into the collapse of the American legal system. Stewart—who has stood up to state power for more than three decades in order to give a voice to those whom authorities seek to crush, who has spent her life defending the poor and the marginalized, who wept in court when one of her clients was barred from presenting a credible defense—is everything a lawyer should be in an open society. But we no longer live in an open society. The persecution of Stewart is the persecution of us all.”
Stewart upheld the tradition of the people’s lawyer as embodied in the work of Clarence Darrow and William Kunstler. Like them, she deeply believed that all people deserved a vigorous defense.
I interviewed Stewart for the Flashpoints show on Pacifica Radio, along with her husband, Ralph Poynter, in 2014, right after her release from Maximum Security prison in New York.
Dennis Bernstein: Why do you think they put you in jail? Is it because for a zillion years you represented the poorest of…