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Prosecutors still targeting attorney

By Nicole Colson | December 1, 2006 | Page 2

FEDERAL PROSECUTORS failed in their recent bid to get civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart thrown behind bars for the rest of her life. Now they're trying again.

On October 16, federal Judge John Koeltl sentenced Stewart to 28 months in prison for aiding "terrorism" when she was a lawyer for Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a Muslim cleric convicted in 1995 of conspiring with followers to bomb several sites in New York City. Prosecutors admit that Stewart's actions--chiefly reading a press release to a reporter--never caused any violence.

The idea that Stewart might be forced to spend any time in prison for defending her client is an outrage, but the relatively light sentence she received was seen by many as a victory against the government, which had sought a 30-year sentence. Since her sentencing, Stewart has been out on bail awaiting an appeal.

But now, government lawyers have announced that they are seeking permission from the Solicitor General of the U.S. Justice Department to appeal Lynne's sentence, as well as those of her two codefendants.

According to a statement from the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee, "Lynne's attorneys are not surprised that the government wants to appeal her sentence. Although sentences are not usually appealed, it does happen, and case law in the 2nd Circuit which governs Lynne's case shows that, although rare, when a sentence is appealed and the Circuit sends the case back for resentencing, the result is a far longer sentence. We are hopeful that Judge Koeltl's meticulous sentencing decision will carry the day but we have no guarantees and must continue our vigilance in the face of this latest move by the government."

Stewart and her supporters are continuing to fight. "We are going to go on," Stewart told the crowd that had gathered to support her, following her sentencing. "This is a time that cries out for renewed resistance to a government that is not only overreaching in a case like mine--I am the point person--but to a government that overreaches into all our lives."

Supporters of Stewart will gather for an "Ode to Joy and Struggle," featuring Lynne, Pam Africa (International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal) and Robert Meeropol (Rosenberg Fund for Children), on December 9, at 7 p.m. at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, in New York City.

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