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Convicted Attorney Lynne Stewart: "You Can't Lock Up the Lawyers"
Lynne Stewart and her attorney, Michael Tigar, join Democracy Now! In our firehouse studio for their first extended national broadcast interview following Thursday's jury decision to convict Stewart on all five counts of conspiring to aid terrorists and lying to the government. The verdict reverberated around the country, especially with lawyers who fear the government's aim is to discourage them from representing unpopular clients. We also speak with one of the witnesses at her trial, former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark.
Civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart was convicted on all five counts of conspiring to aid terrorists and lying to the government Thursday in a case that reverberated with defense lawyers around the country.
Stewart was convicted of smuggling out messages from her jailed client - Shiekh Omar Abdel Rahman also known as the blind sheikh who is serving a life sentence on terror-related charges. Most notably Stewart was convicted of helping Rahman contact followers in Egypt with messages that could have ended a cease-fire there and ignited violence. She faces up to 35 years in prison.
Stewart's co-defendants Ahmed Sattar, a postal worker who acted as a paralegal for Abdel-Rahman, and Mohammed Yousry, an Arabic translator, were also convicted of all charges against them.
The verdict was a major victory for the Justice Department and one of the country's most closely-watched cases since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Stewart's indictment in April 2002 was personally announced by Attorney General John Ashcroft. It was the first time that the federal government has prosecuted a defense attorney in a terrorism case. Lawyers around the country fear the government's aim is to discourage them from representing unpopular clients.
Yesterday's guilty verdict was hailed by Ashcroft's successor, Alberto Gonzales who said the convictions "send a clear, unmistakable message that this department will pursue both those who carry out acts of terrorism and those who assist them with their murderous goals."
The 7-month trial was held in the same New York federal courthouse where the Rosenbergs were tried for conspiracy to commit espionage more than a half century ago. It featured very few witnesses as the government's case was based primarily on transcripts from more than 85,000 secretly recorded audio and video clips of meetings between Stewart and her client as well as the home phone of Ahmed Abdel Sattar.
The jury deliberated for 13 days before delivering a sweeping guilty verdict. Judge, John Koeltl, set her sentencing for July 15. Because she was convicted of a felony, she will be immediately disbarred. She remains free on bail, but cannot travel outside New York State.
After the verdict was read out, Lynne Stewart emerged from the courthouse with her husband and spoke to reporters gathered outside.
* Lynne Stewart, speaking outside the courthouse, February 10, 2005.
* Lynne Stewart, in our firehouse studio. Go to LynneStewart.org for more information.
* Michael Tigar, Lynne Stewart's attorney. He joins us in our firehouse studio.
* Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General. He testified in Lynne Stewart's case. He also was recently named as one of Saddam Hussein's lawyers.