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Feds determined to punish Stewart

By Nicole Colson | July 28, 2006 | Page 2

IF GOVERNMENT prosecutors get their way, defense attorney Lynne Stewart may spend the rest of her life in prison.

Prosecutors are asking federal judge John Koeltl to hand down the maximum prison sentence of 30 years for the 66-year-old lawyer, convicted in 2005 on five counts, including "materially aiding" terrorists and violating special prison regulations.

Stewart's conviction stems from her role as a defense attorney for Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a Muslim cleric convicted in 1995 of conspiring with followers in the Islamic Group to bomb several New York City landmarks.

In 2000, as part of a legal strategy designed to keep Abdel Rahman in the public eye, Stewart read a press release to a Reuters reporter in Cairo detailing Abdel Rahman's withdrawal of his personal support for a ceasefire between the Islamic Group and the Egyptian government.

Nearly two years later, exploiting the September 11 attacks and the wave of repression that followed, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft indicted Stewart, claiming that it was part of the Bush administration's "war on terror."

In the trial that followed, prosecutors went out of their way to paint Stewart as a supporter of terrorism, even going so far as to play videotapes of Osma bin Laden--while admitting that no violence ever resulted from Stewart's actions.

According to a recent motion filed by Stewart's lawyers that asks for leniency, the government's sentencing recommendations state: "We hope that this sentence of 30 years will not only punish Stewart for her actions, but serve as a deterrent for other lawyers who believe that they are above the rules and regulations of penal institutions or otherwise try to skirt the laws of this country."

The recommendations, Stewart said in a recent statement to supporters, "give you a real sense of the posture of the government towards me. That is, that I must be made an example of to deter attorneys."

But, added Stewart, who is encouraging people to demonstrate at her September 25 sentencing hearing, "the fight is far from over, and the isolation that is prison will only be pierced by the good of people who continue to fight for justice and bring attention to the excesses of the U.S. government."

As Stewart's legal team pointed out, "The recommendation of a 30-year sentence for 66-year-old women with cancer and a lifetime of service to the community is not reasonable. It is not justice. It is tyranny."

Contributions to help with Lynne's defense can be sent to: The Lynne Stewart Defense Committee, 350 Broadway, Suite 700, New York, NY 10013, or made through www.lynnestewart.org.

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