Monday, July 19, 2010

60. Civil Libertarian Lawyer Lynn Stewart Resentenced to 10 Years

On July 14, Judge John G. Koeltl of the Federal District Court in Manhattan increased the sentence of Lynne Stewart,  a civil libertarian lawyer falsely convicted of assisting terrorism, to 10 years — nearly five times as long as her original sentence.

In the context of "war of terror" crackdown on civil liberties, on April 9, 2002 Lynne Stewart was arrested. In February 2005, Stewart was convicted of charges of smuggling messages from her client Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman to his followers.  The Sheik has been serving a life-sentence for plotting to bomb the World Trade Center.   

In 2006, Stewart was sentenced to 28 months in jail, a relatively light sentence. Judge Koeltl acknowledged that there was "'no evidence that any victim was in fact harmed' by her actions" and noted her career as a "lawyer to the poor and the unpopular."

However, the arrest, trial and sentencing of Lynne Stewart are part of the attempt by the U.S. government to silence dissent, curtail vigorous defense lawyers, and install fear in those who would fight against the U.S. government’s repressive measures, especially those who want to help Arabs and Muslims being prosecuted for free speech.

Thus, the prosecutor appealed to a higher court for more severe punishment for Stewart.  In 2009, the higher court upheld the conviction and ordered Judge Koeltl to increase the sentence. 

Lynne Stewart is 70 years old and is under care for breast cancer. Ralph Poynter, her husband, characterized judge's decision as  “a death sentence."

“I’m somewhat stunned, Judge, by the swift change in my outlook,” Stewart said in court. “We will continue to struggle on to take all available options to do what we need to do to change this.”

She added: “I feel like I let a lot of my good people down,” to which people in the gallery shouted, “We love you.”

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