Lynne Stewart Re-Sentenced to 10 Years – U.S. Justice Sentenced to Death<br />Death – Physical, Mental, Spiritual Death… that is what Lynn Stewart, honorable attorney of the Blind Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman was handed down today by the U.S. Federal Judge, but the conviction was not just the conviction of a women that represents justice and truth; It was rather the conviction of justice and truth itself and an indicator that America is slipping, not from democracy, it’s arguable whether America ever was a true democracy for all, but from a political society altogether, from an abstract entity that claims the identity of millions, and solidifies a geographic territory politically, even in the minds of some of its staunchest critics. Yesterday June 15, 2010 American identity died with the oppressive, 10-year sentence of activist, lawyer, and freedom fighter Lynne Stewart, an America that has been on life support for quite some time. <br />Lynne Stewart was terrorized by America. She was terrorized by the United States government, in yet the latest example of a “shock and awe” campaign to protect the empire from domestic threat. The judge gave her an opportunity to speak before drawing a pound of her flesh, and she utilized the time to express herself saying that she never thought she would be back in this position. In fact, her real crime was two remarks she made after her original sentencing. Upon her exit from the courthouse in 2006 when she was originally sentenced to 28 months, she remarked that she could “do 28 months standing on her head” and that she would do “it” again. This led the federal prosecutors to challenge the sentencing on the grounds that she had committed perjury and that the sentence was too light. For that matter, she was punished and will likely spend the rest of her days on Earth in prison.<br />She used her opportunity to speak in the courtroom to defend her two statements, explaining that she made the declaration of doing 28 months in prison “standing on her head” before she knew the horrors of the experience. She explained that, “I have learned no one can do 28 months standing on their head,” that “daily I confront the prospects of death” and that she has lost some of her compassion due to the fact her “thoughts are regimented… to match the institutional regulation”. She stated that she witnesses everyday as fellow female inmates suffer the same fate, that she realized that they really “need to learn how to learn,” and that the reality is that each one of them is alone despite interacting with other inmates. She asked for the 28 month sentence to be reimposed and explained that she would do it, “not standing on my head, but just surviving.”<br />With regard to the accusation that she would do “it” again, Lynne Stewart defined the “it” explaining her compassion for her client Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman who she witnessed was deteriorating during his time incarcerated by U.S. authorities, who she fought for because he was essentially misunderstood and whom she got to know and grew incredibly respectful of due to his status as a “freedom fighter”. If “it” means “compassionately representing my client” she said, then she certainly would do it again. The overflow room full of friends, family and activists wept as she read her words, many of them touched or benefiting themselves from her dedication and passion for her profession and justice and many of them intimately connected to her through her life-long history of advocacy in defense of the poor and oppressed.<br /> The Justice Department was not impressed however and after her statement they took time to portray her as a supporter of the World Trade Center attacks, both in 1993 and 2001, as a proponent of the Luxor attacks against civilians in Egypt in 1997 and as an anti-Semite who endorsed a fatwa to kill Jews everywhere. The United States attorney constantly referred to her role in a “terrorist-murder-conspiracy” and essentially denounced her status as a human being, calling on the judge to mete out divine justice and implement a punishment “severe enough” to serve as a deterrent to other lawyers. He said that there was a risk that “judges would stop trusting lawyers” were it any other way and that the “criminal” Stewart had “disserviced the whole profession.” For the most part the judge would comply with his requests.<br />The judge essentially ignored the statements of both as he had already prepared a very statistical report based upon federal prosecuting guidelines. He read from it for approximately an hour and in the process so too vilified Ms. Stewart confirming the perjury, her lack of remorse and giving little credence to the reality that any lawyer that has dealt with the injustice of the U.S. court system and struggled her whole life inside it, would have expressed herself in much the same way. As he handed down the 120 months sentence (10 years), the courtroom gasped in awe, shocked, immobilized and unable to remark; time stood still. The pundits from the press covered it accordingly; no detailed coverage of her testimony exists. The Fox News headline perhaps best exemplifies the way the day was chronicled; it simply reads, Prison Term Extended for Lawyer Who Aided 1993 World Trade Center Bomber.<br />In the heart of this headline lies the truth, for anyone that carefully scrutinizes the actual background information at least. Stewart was actually convicted for providing “material support” to terrorists, here referring not to weapons or bombs but through releasing, via press conference, the ideological statement of a political prisoner and not to some political party or “terrorist” but to Reuters Press. This occurred when she released a statement from Omar Abdul Rahman to his group Jamaat Islamiyya with regard to a peace treaty between them and the Egyptian government. The clarification said: "
I (Omar Abdel-Rahman) am not withdrawing my support of the cease-fire, I am merely questioning it and I am urging you, who are on the ground there to discuss it and to include everyone in your discussions as we always have done."
This led to the charge of engaging in a terrorist conspiracy to kill persons outside of the United States and conspiring to defraud the U.S. government when acting as counsel. The statement hardly calls for violence at all; instead it calls for negotiation and potential peace. However, Stewart has been labeled a traitor and terrorist in a post 9-11 era, her critics oftentimes not remembering that the events themselves occurred prior to the attacks of September, 2001. <br />The reality of the case notwithstanding, the true injustice of the day was in the methodology the Court used to determine the sentence. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines the Judge referred to are a set of statistical demarcations that tend to box criminals into suggested sentencing minimums and maximums based largely on the nature of the offense and the defendant’s prior criminal history. For this matter, the defendant’s “sentencing guidelines” could not be measured by a statistical approximation. Lynne Stewart’s life and dedication to humanity cannot be measured by any reductionist mathematical formula. The fact that the courts tried to do so was obviously for the purpose of attaching a rationalization to the severe repression that was to be meted. Like Nazi jurisprudence, and its consequential calorie counts, concentration camps, and eugenics program, the practice of criminal law in the West has become so dehumanizing that it attempts to quantify the human experience. Every day “criminals” are sentenced based on empirical scores and a point system. Doing so, in a case like Lynn Stewart’s is especially absurd.<br />How can one quantify the value of thirty years of public service? Public service in defense of the poor, the minority, the political, the oppressed? Thirty years as a teacher, a lawyer, an activist, an advocate, a human rights representative, a writer, a woman that embodies the principles, perhaps falsely attributed to the United States. That is the true crime, the fact that essentially the guidelines, which produced a maximum of 30 years, were adhered to completely. Essentially, the justice meted out would be equivalent to the maximum on the most serious offense, and equivalent to running all charges concurrently, the normal approach to sentencing on a case in which the convictions occur for largely the same series of actions and events. This dehumanization marks the rationalization of criminal behavior in an absurd reality where extenuating circumstances are seldom considered as components of a legal process. In the Muslim community we have witnessed the absurdity of an Aafia Siddiqui trial without mention of the near certainty that she was tortured and illegally detained for several years in Baghram, the case of Fahad Hashmi treated before conviction like a Guantanamo detainee on 23 hour lockdown in spite of the principle of “innocent until proven guilty,” and the innumerable cases where the extenuating circumstances of “homegrown terror” cases, where the plotter and planner is an FBI informant and this fact is unconsidered in cases where people are sentenced to near-life imprisonment for following the coercion of a government employee. So to the case of Omar Abdul Rahman, where the government had an informant that provided the bombs, advice and encouragement and framed the defendant for over a million dollars in pay. <br />These apparent aberrations are becoming the norm and the courtrooms of America increasingly resemble a Kangaroo Court or the Court of the Queen in Alice in Wonderland. This is not atypical; in the past the enemy was Communism and the Luxemburgs and Black Panthers set a warning for any and all that opposed the imperialist machine. Today the enemy is the Muslims, but the headhunting and example setting in this era have gone even beyond lines drawn in the Cold War. Lynne Stewart was not in favor of the ideology of today’s enemy, she was merely defending the right that all ideologies are allowed expression. In this manner, Lynne Stewart represents the principle that all deserve a fair trial and a vigorous defense. She is a would-be a poster child for the superiority of law that sees no class, color, or discrimination. Instead, she has been labeled a terrorist, or terrorist sympathizer for having the courage to act on principles that mankind cannot today and will never be able to measure. <br /> Humanity and morality cannot be calculated with mathematical formulae, especially when their sense of consciousness expands beyond simple concern for self and realizes that life is appreciated and actually understood when it is spent sacrificed for the sake of others. This is a principle that successful societies have always embodied, and the fact that America is bent on destroying that notion today both externally and internally, documents an act of social suicide. Therefore it was not merely Lynn Stewart that was delivered a verdict of death on July 15, 2010, it was the entire society, it was each and all, it was the death of principles and values that cannot be weighed; it was the Death of America. <br />James Madison, framer of the American System, once remarked, "
I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations."
The day’s decision was an example of such a technique of abridgment, a gradual trek to the dismantlement of justice and freedom of expression has certainly been occurring in America since the establishment of gains made during the civil rights era, gains Lynne Stewart was partially responsible for and fought her whole life to protect. It is quite indicative of the reality America faces today that one of its staunchest defenders of freedom of thought and expression, of equality for all, would one day sit in the defendant’s chair charged with a crime of terror and violence, attached only to her advocacy and support of speech. Still, the decision was representative of a gradual trend but certainly set a milestone marker on the road to repression; it will be hard generally to find political prisoners afforded an opportunity to express themselves or get proper, vigorous defense after the decision. In that sense, it so too represents the complete dehumanization of the U.S. court systems not only for the true enemies abroad and internal, but for the domestic citizens courageous enough to express dissent and spend their lives in the way of challenging the hypocrisies, fallacies and unsustainabilites of empire. <br />After hearing the shocking sentence Lynn Stewart broke down temporarily, her and her lawyer paused and she had to feel the consequences of her sentence to death row, had to see her life flash before her eyes in seconds, had to consider feeling regret, remorse, and pleading for leniency and forgiveness. Instead, she rose and responded by saying, “I'm somewhat stunned, Judge, by the swift change in my outlook. We will continue to struggle on to take all available options to do what we need to do to change this. I feel like I let a lot of my good people down."
There is a lesson here for humanity. A lesson on the purpose of our lives, the value in living for the sake of others and the role and responsibility that every conscious human has to defend the courageous that rise and speak truth to power. The crowd in the overflow room, confused and numb in silence was seemingly comforted by her words. "
We love you!"
the courtroom shouted, and everyone refocused their energy on proceeding forward. Outside the courthouse, the advocates began chanting, the activists conducted interviews and vied to get the message to the press, and the people experienced what it means to be human by reacting in diverse ways. We can learn a lot from Lynne Stewart, all of us. In essence a death sentence became a sentence of life for humanity. If understood in proper context, the sentence is death for America, but humanity must move on. <br />