In 2010 I wrote about American lawyer, Lynne Stewart, who collaborated with her client, blind cleric and terrorist Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, leading to her arrest and conviction for conspiracy and passing messages to the Sheikh’s followers. Originally ordered to serve 28 months in prison, her sentence was increased to ten years by the appeal court, who were unimpressed with her flippant arrogance after her original sentencing and identified her perjury at trial as a relevant factor in the increased sentence. She was then 70 years old.
Ms. Stewart was retained in the early 90’s to defend Shiekh Omar Abdul-Rahman, spiritual leader of the Egyptian organization The Islamic Group. The Shiekh, who master-minded the World Trade Centre explosions on 9/11 was charged with terrorist acts in relation to the WTC and attempts to blow-up the United Nations, an FBI building, and several tunnels and a bridge in New York City. He was convicted and given a life sentence plus 65 years. It was reported that Ms. Stewart openly wept at his sentencing.
Between 1997 and 2002, Stewart, her interpreter and her paralegal continued to see the Shiekh in prison and were accused of passing messages from the Shiekh to his radical followers, who under his leadership, continued to plot jihadist attacks around the world.
At the core of the government’s case against her were secret videotapes and telephone recordings of her meetings with her client. In one recording she and the Shiekh were laughing at their clever arrangement to continue the jihadist work even while he was in prison.
Additionally, in breach of her agreement with the authorities that only legal matters would be discussed with her client, she made a public announcement on the Shiekh’s behalf which signaled to his followers that they should ignore a cease-fire agreement.
As a hero of the left, prior to her incarceration she was in great demand as a speaker and garnered the support of numerous organizations including the communist Pravda and George Soros’ foundation. Osama bin Laden recorded a video tape wherein he praised Stewart’s actions.
Stewart summarized her political agenda:
“I don’t believe in anarchist violence but in directed violence.
That would be violence directed at the institutions which
perpetuate capitalism, racism, sexism and at the people who
are the appointed guardians of the institutions and
accompanied with popular support.”
After her arrest in 2002 she told the New York Times that the Pentagon would have been a better terrorist target than the World Trade Towers on 9/11 because people in the Towers “never knew what hit them”.
In December 2013 U.S. District Judge John Koeltl ordered the “compassionate” release of Ms. Stewart, on account of terminal breast cancer and medical opinions that she had at best 18 months to live.
While she was to live quietly in her last months, her disease suddenly improved to the point where she began openly proselytizing to a variety of left-wing organizations and her adoring followers.
Giving a recent speech to an antiwar coalition, Stewart acknowledged receiving a letter from convicted felon Mutulu Shakur, imprisoned for participating in a 1981 Brinks robbery that left three people dead. Stewart’s terms of release prevented her from associating with felons, so she quickly corrected herself, saying her husband had received the letter from Shakur, who was once involved with the Black Liberation Army. She apparently smirked as she said:
“I don’t communicate with political prisoners because that’s a part of my probation.”
What I don’t understand is why convicted terrorists are even eligible for compassionate release? Ms. Stewart’s release on medical grounds reminds me of Libyan Lockerbie terrorist Abdelbaset al-Megrahi who was released from a Scottish prison in 2009 on compassionate grounds, based on evidence he had only three months to live. He served a mere 8 1/2 years on a life sentence and became a national hero in Libya. He lived an additional three years in his family’s villa, lauded and honoured in his native country.
There certainly are cases where compassionate release is warranted, but in cases of terrorism, early release is a travesty that ought never to occur.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang