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Free Lynne Stewart!

Jul 5, 2012

It is never admitted by U.S. government spokespeople — who love to shout out about “human rights violations” if the target is China or Iran — that the United States has political prisoners. Plenty of them. Many of them have been imprisoned since the Black, Native and Latino/a liberation struggles of the 1960s and 1970s.

But two political prisoners, whose fate is linked, did make it into the media as June ended.

One was Egyptian-born Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted in 1995 on trumped-up seditious conspiracy charges connected with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Sheik Rahman, who is blind and ill, has been imprisoned since his 1993 arrest.

The new president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, publicly promised Egyptians on June 29 that his government would try to get Sheik Rahman released on humanitarian grounds.

A day earlier, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit confirmed the 2010 decision of Federal District Court Judge John Koeltl to increase an already outrageous 28-month jail sentence for Sheik Rahman’s attorney, Lynne Stewart, to 10 years. What Stewart was “guilty” of was energetically and diligently fighting an appeal for her client.

Stewart is a human rights activist. As an attorney, she was always a staunch defender of the most oppressed. Most of her clients were poor people from the Black community, some of them Muslims.

It was a great loss to the progressive movement and to the most oppressed defendants that the repressive state apparatus in this country deprived her of the ability to defend these clients. That it sentenced her to the original 28 months was itself a travesty of justice. And that Judge Koeltl would respond to obvious political pressure from the right to increase this sentence to 10 years — for someone who was already 70 years old — gives a new meaning to “cruel and unusual punishment.” (For more details on the decision, see lynnestewart.org.)

For the political prisoners the U.S. holds — and denies it has — we need to keep up the political defense.

Free Lynne Stewart!

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UPDATED Jul 14, 2012 11:31 AM
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