February 21, 2007
Copyright © 2007 by Marc Norton
UPDATE: Lynne Stewart was resentenced to a 10-year prison term after an appeals court outrageously ruled that her original 28-month sentence was too light. She served nearly
four years in prison. Lynne was released in December 2013 with Stage IV breast cancer. Lynne passed away, surrounded by her family, in March 2017. Lynne Stewart Presente!
Michael Ratner passed away in 2016. Michael Ratner Presente!
Mumia Abu-Jamal is still in prison. Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!
Lynne Stewart and Michael Ratner are beginning a West Coast Tour this Friday night, February 23, at the Women’s Building in San Francisco.
The tour is a joint benefit for the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee and the Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Lynne Stewart is an attorney renowned for her defense of radical and unpopular defendants. She was targeted by none other than US Attorney General John Ashcroft in early 2002, not long after the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. She has been convicted of bogus “terrorist conspiracy” charges, and is appealing her conviction and 28-month prison sentence.
|Stewart’s two co-defendants, Mohamad Yousry (right) and Ahmed Sattar (far right), both legal workers for Stewart, were similarly convicted on trumped-up charges. Yousry faces a 20-month prison sentence, while Sattar faces 24 years.|
Michael Ratner is also a renowned attorney. He is president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), an organization that has helped lead the fight against the massive repression unleashed in the wake of 9/11.
Mumia Abu-Jamal has called the government attack on Stewart and her co-defendants “a triumph of fear over reason.” Mumia, a Black Panther and journalist, has been on death row since 1982, on phony charges of shooting a Philadelphia police officer.
Sometimes, in the crush of our daily political battles, we forget those of us who have found themselves directly in the crosshairs of the imperial might of the empire. In the words of Phil Ochs, there but for fortune go you or I. Stewart has repeatedly described the campaign against her and her co-defendants as an attack, not only on the attorneys who defend unpopular clients, but an attack directly on the people themselves who need defending.
A list of Stewart’s clients over the years tells the tale. They have included, among others, members of the Black Panthers, participants in the 1971 Attica prison uprising, and Puerto Rican independence fighters. Her conviction arises from her legal defense of the “blind Shiek” Omar Abdel Rachman, now serving a life sentence for “seditious conspiracy," a prosecution which grew out of investigations of the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.
Speaking at a previous event on behalf of Stewart, former political prisoner Bato Talamentez described the importance of “people’s lawyers, who step forward to defend us.” Talamentez was one of the San Quentin Six, a group of prisoners targeted in the aftermath of the state murder of George Jackson. “While Lynne is considered an ‘enemy of the state’... we the people, the real people, disenfranchised prisoners, the destitute and the poor across Amerika, consider Lynne Stewart a people’s champion and a hero to the oppressed and underprivileged."
Michael Ratner is one of those “people’s lawyers” who has held the reactionaries’ feet to the fire. The CCR defends detainees at Guantánamo and Abu-Ghraib, and has initiated a landmark war crimes/torture lawsuit in Germany against former Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld and current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He is also the author of an excellent book, “Guantánamo: What the World Should Know.”
The work of the CCR takes on even more urgency in the wake of the recent passage of George Bush’s Military Commissions Act. Building on the Patriot Act and other repressive legislation, this law makes it possible for the President -- Bush or whoever comes next -- to declare anyone, including US citizens, “enemy combatants,” lock you away, and throw away the key. U.S. Labor Against the War, in the wake of the November elections, has called on activists “to confront all candidates for President and Vice President and House and Senate in 2008 to demand that they commit themselves to immediate repeal” of the act.
You never know when you might really need a good lawyer.
The main San Francisco event at the Women’s Building Friday night begins at 7:30 PM. Stewart and Ratner will also be in Berkeley, at Martin Luther King Middle School, on Saturday, February 24. For details of the tour, and other appearances, check out www.lynnestewart.org.
Do your best to show up at one of these events. You owe it to Lynne, to Mumia, to all struggling people, and to yourself.
The website of CCR is at www.CCRJustice.org.
Mumia's statement on Lynne Stewart is at www.lynnestewart.org/lynnemumia2.html.