Indicted defense attorney speaks out

Lynne Stewart, indicted defense attorney of Sheikh Abdel Rahman, visited Portland State University on Friday to speak about the charges she is facing, her impending court date and America’s “War on Terrorism.”

All donations collected will go to the Lynne Stewart defense fund. Sponsored by Education Without Borders, KBOO 90.7 FM, PSU’s Association of African Students, Students for Unity and many other community organizations, the event showcased Stewart, an outspoken attorney who was arrested on April 9, 2002 because of her links to Rahman and his involvement in the terrorist organization the Islamic Group.

Charges against Stewart include providing material support to terrorist organizations, conspiracy to defraud the United States and false statements, including violations of Special Administrative Measures imposed by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

“There is no basis for these charges,” she said Friday night. “I had been lawyering, that’s what I do. I’m absolutely innocent of any crime, even those constructed in the mind of John Ashcroft.”

In addition to Stewart, three others facing charges include Ahmed Abdel Sattar, accused of being a leader within the Islamic Group; Yassir Al-Sirri, head of the London-based Islamic Observation Center; and Mohammed Yousry, an Arabic translator who occasionally worked for ABC News and facilitated communication between Stewart and Rahman during attorney-client visits.

The controversy surrounding Stewart’s case arises from the methods implemented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation when gathering evidence against her.

At approximately the same time Stewart was being arrested at her Brooklyn home, FBI agents entered Stewart’s Manhattan office, where they proceeded to search for more than 12 hours. As agents left the building, several were photographed taking boxes from the premises.

Stewart explained that, during the search, agents confiscated many important resources belonging to her practice.

Charges against Stewart are based on information found in a press release, overheard attorney-client interviews and wiretapped conversations, sources only recently allowed in courtrooms since the passing of the September 2001 Patriot Act. Because of the nature of the charges brought against her, Stewart believes that the case is yet another effort by the Bush administration to silence opposition.

After defending Rahman during his 1995 trial, in which he received a life sentence for conspiring to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as well as bomb many New York City landmarks, Stewart continued serving as his attorney.

His involvement with the Islamic Group serves as a basis for Stewart’s indictment, as she is accused of passing messages between him and various Islamic Group leaders.

Since being indicted, Stewart has traveled across the country, speaking out against the accusations she is facing; which she calls “an attack on the people.” “My arrest clearly signals, ‘Be careful before you take on a controversial client, we can take your career, practice and put you in prison,'” she said. “‘And if you disregard this, make sure you’re not overly strident, that you don’t remind us of the sixth Amendment, not to mention the first, fourth and the fifth,’ and that you treat this client as ‘different,’ your government has already decided he’s guilty.”

Stewart explained that her case is vital because of the precedents it will set.

“Not to win it means we just slide further down the slope, right into the arms of the gang who’s running Washington.”

She explained that the time has come to stand up to the Bush administration and spread awareness about the current unconstitutional practices being used by law enforcement.

“I really do believe that we live in perilous times,” she said. “The Constitution is sorely in need of defense. We’re defending the right to defend, the right we all have when in trouble to be defended, and the right to remain true to one’s principles.”

Stewart and her supporters maintain that she was targeted largely because of her “progressive political beliefs” as well as her “reputation for vigorously advocating on behalf of those whose lives have been entrusted to her.”

Defense attorney Michael Tigar, who has represented clients such as the Chicago Eight, Angela Davis and Cesar Chavez’s son, Fernando, will represent Stewart at her trial.

“This case represents an opportunity to confront the Bush/Cheney/Ashcroft effort to destroy human rights and scare the country into lurching to the right,” he said. “The entire legal profession ought to be standing up and shouting about this case.”

For more information about the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee, visit