US Attorney General, John Ashcroft, who is known for his musical talent, announced on April 9 that there had been criminal proceedings instituted against four people, who were charged with rendering assistance to the Egyptian terrorist group Jamaat-e-Islami. Lynne Stewart, a well-known lawyer, is one of those four people.
Lynne Stewart was Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman’s lawyer, who was charged with organizing the act of terrorism in 1993, when a minibus blew up near the buildings of the World Trade Center in New York. Eye-witnesses say that Lynne Stewart burst into tears, when she heard the sentence that had been brought down on Omar Abdel (lifetime imprisonment, plus 65 years). The press reacted immediately, writing things like there was warm relationship between the lawyer and her client.
It should be mentioned here that Omar Abdel’s followers were not wasting their time. In 1997 they arranged an attack on the group of foreign tourists, killing 58 people as a result. The terrorists left a message on the site of their crime, demanding Abdel Rahman should be released.
Lynne Stewart was allowed to visit her client at hospital: Sheikh lost his sight because of diabetes. It is strange, but the same thing happened to Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. The prosecutors say that Stewart helped Abdel Rahman to contact his followers at liberty, and stay in touch with Osama bin Laden’s organization.
Lynne Stewart’s clients were not only Arab terrorists. She was defending various crude “revolutionaries,” gangsters. "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, a well-known killer, was one of her clients, but she was consciously trying to defend the worst scoundrels, believing that every human being had a right for defense at court, for this is one of the basic principles of the American justice.
But now it seems that the American government decided to discourage the American lawyers from defending those, who were indicted for terrorism. Stewart's attorney Susan V. Tipograph will most likely insist on the fact that the government decided to get even with Lynne Stewart. It is not known, if this tactics is going to be a success at court, but the position of the American Justice Ministry is rather vulnerable in this respect: the case is of the open political character. Furthermore, it is quite possible that Stewart’s radical liberalism is being very annoying for the incumbent Attorney General, who is known for his conservative views.
Lynne Stewart’s case may become a precedent. By the way, it will be very easy for her prosecutors to substantiate their position in the opinion of the society: everybody suffers from terrorism. So, there may soon come the times, when American lawyers will think twice before taking up the cases, connected with terrorism, especially if their clients are Arabs.
Vasily Bubnov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov