Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lynne Stewart and the Guantanamo Lawyers

Lynne Stewart and the Guantanamo Lawyers: Same Fact Patterns, Same
Opponent, Different Endings?

By Ralph Poynter

In the Spring of 2002, Lynne Stewart was arrested by the FBI, at her
home in Brooklyn, for materially aiding terrorism by virtue of
making a public press release to Reuters on behalf of her client,
Sheik Abdel Omar Rahman of Egypt. This was done after she had signed
a Special Administrative Measure issued by the Bureau of Prisons not
permitting her to communicate with the media, on his behalf.

In 2006, a number of attorneys appointed and working pro bono for
detainees at Guantanamo were discovered to be acting in a manner that
disobeyed a Federal Judge's protective court order. The adversary in
both cases was the United States Department of Justice. The results
in each case were very different.

In March of 2010, a right wing group "Keep America Safe" led by Lynn
Cheyney, hoping to dilute Guantanamo representation and impugn the
reputations and careers of the volunteer lawyers, launched a
campaign. Initially they attacked the right of the detainees to be
represented at all. This was met with a massive denouncement by
Press, other media, Civil rights organizations ,and rightly so, as
being a threat to the Constitution and particularly the Sixth
Amendment right to counsel.

A second attack on the Gitmo lawyers was made in the Wall Street
Journal of March 16. This has been totally ignored in the media and
by civil and human rights groups. This latter revelation about the
violations, by these lawyers, of the Judge's protective orders and
was revealed via litigation and the Freedom of Information
Act. These pro bono lawyers serving clients assigned to them at
Gitmo used privileged attorney client mail to send banned
materials. They carried in news report of US failures in
Afghanistan and Iraq . One lawyer drew a map of the prison. Another
delivered lists to his client of all the suspects held there. They
placed on the internet a facsimile of the badges worn by the Guards.
Some lawyers "provided news outlets with 'interviews' of their
clients using questions provided in advance by the news
organizations." When a partner at one of the large Wall Street law
firms sent in multiple copies of an Amnesty International brochure,
which her client was to distribute to other prisoners, she was
relieved from her representation and barred by the Military Commander
from visiting her client.

This case is significant to interpret not because of the right wing
line to punish these lawyers and manipulate their corporate clients
to stop patronizing such "wayward" firms. Instead it is
significant because, Lynne Stewart, a left wing progressive
lawyer who had dedicated her thirty year career to defending the
poor, the despised, the political prisoner and those ensnared by
reason of race, gender, ethnicity, religion , who was dealt with by
the same Department of Justice, in such a draconian fashion, confirms
our deepest suspicions that she was targeted for prosecution and
punishment because of who she is and who she represented so ably and
not because of any misdeed.

Let me be very clear, I am not saying that the Gitmo lawyers acted in
any "criminal" manner. The great tradition of the defense bar is to
be able to make crucial decisions for and with the client without
interference by the adversary Government.

I believe that they were acting as zealous attorneys trying to
establish rapport and trust with their clients. That said, the moment
the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice tried to
remove Julia Tarver Mason from her client, the playing field
tilted. Ms Tarver Mason was not led out of her home in handcuffs to
the full glare of publicity. There was no press conference. The
Attorney General did not go on the David Letterman show to gloat
about the latest strike in the War on Terror, the purge of the Gitmo

Instead an "armada" of corporate lawyers went to Court against the
Government. They, in the terms of the litigation trade, papered the
US District Courthouse in Washington D.C. They brought to bear the
full force of their Money and Power-- derived from the corporate
world--and in 2006 "settled" the case with the government, restoring
their clients to Guantanamo without any punishment at all, not to say
any Indictment. Lynne Stewart, without corporate connections and
coming from a working class background, was tried and convicted
for issuing, on behalf of her client, a public press release to
Reuters. There was no injury, no harm, no attacks, no deaths.

Yet that same Department of Justice that dealt so favorably and
capitulated to the Gitmo corporate lawyers, wants to sentence Lynne
Stewart to thirty (30) YEARS in prison. It is the equivalent of
asking for a death sentence since she is 70 years old.

This vast disparity in treatment between Lynne and the Gitmo lawyers
reveals the deep contradictions of the system --those who derive
power from rich and potent corporations, those whose day to day work
maintains and increases that power--are treated differently. Is it
because the Corporate Power is intertwined with Government Power???

Lynne Stewart deserves Justice... equal justice under law. Her
present sentence of 28 months incarceration (she is in Federal
Prison) should at least be maintained, if not made equal to the
punishment that was meted out to the Gitmo lawyers. The thirty year
sentence, assiduously pursued by DOJ under both Bush and Obama, is an
obscenity and an affront to fundamental fairness. They wanted to
make her career and dedication to individual clients, a warning, to
the defense bar that the Government can arrest any lawyer on any
pretext. The sharp contrasts between the cases of Lynne and the
Gitmo lawyers just confirm that she is getting a raw deal--one that
should be protested actively, visibly and with the full force of
our righteous resistance.

Lynne Stewart will be re sentenced sometime in July, in NYC.

Ralph Poynter is the Life partner of Lynne Stewart. He is presently
dedicated 24/7 to her defense, as well as other causes.

1 comment:

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