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Lynne Stewart trial

By LeiLani Dowell
New York

The trial of progressive lawyer Lynne Stewart has concluded. It is currently in the summations and charge phase. Summations began on Jan. 4.

Stewart, Arabic translator Mohamed Yousry and U.S. postal worker Ahmed Abdel Sattar are accused of providing "material support to terrorists." Stewart is also charged with violating a gag order imposed by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons on her client, Sheik Abdel Rahman.

Stewart's case would not have been possible without the passage of the U.S. Patriot Act. The law allows broad and intrusive government surveillance powers, supposedly to counter "terrorism." These powers include the right to monitor communication between federal detainees and their attorneys, in complete disregard of attorney-client privilege.

A statement issued by the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee says: "This thwarts the ability of criminal defendants to receive the effective assistance of counsel to which they are entitled under the Sixth Amendment. Under these same interim rules and directives there are new guidelines for domes tic intelligence gathering that repeal the hard-fought-for reforms of the Church Committee's 1976 findings [regarding Cointelpro]."

As a result, the case against Stewart has revolved around secret FBI audio and video recordings of telephone calls and meetings of Stewart and the two co-defendants.

Many believe that the attack on Lynne Stewart--an attorney for 37 years who has vocally defended many well-known political defendants--is an attempt by the U.S. Justice Department to deter ardent representation of detainees being criminalized by the government, by sending a signal to lawyers about the potential of attacks on them.

Supporters in New York are encouraged to attend the last days of the proceedings. Court is in session in Man hattan, Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 12:45 p.m., then from 2 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. For more information, please visit www.lynnestewart.org.

Reprinted from the Jan. 13, 2005, issue of Workers World newspaper

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