[This is an abridged version of Hajj Mauri’s remembrance of Lynn Stewart.]
Remembering Lynne Stewart: “The People’s Lawyer”
By El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan
Unusual among America’s recent political prisoners, Lynn Stewart was not young, male, or Muslim.
The establishment would have us believe that Lynne Stewart was a lawyer of little consequence before she encountered a certain foreign-born client; and that this particular client became the source of her downfall from anonymous respectability. Nothing could be further from the truth. Long before Lynne Stewart met ‘the blind Egyptian cleric,’ Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, she had already made a name for herself as a ‘people’s lawyer.’
‘The World Can’t Wait,’ a New York-based grassroots organization, had this to say about Lynne’s passing:
“Lynne Stewart, people’s lawyer who defended many political activists and prisoners over 40 years, died March 7 at home in Brooklyn. After a long struggle, she was released from federal prison three years ago, suffering from cancer, and expected not to live long. Yet she lived three more years, during which she continued to defend peoples’ rights, in prison, and out. We will miss her so much.”
Another admirer of Lynne’s, Pakistani neurologist Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui (the sister of another female political prisoner Dr. Aafia Siddiqui), wrote to me that Lynn “was an inspiration and a pillar of courage for people like us.” Lynne had been imprisoned at the same institution that still confines Aafia Siddiqui – FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas. After Lynne was released she participated in two demonstrations we organized for Aafia despite her cancer.
With that said, let us now examine the case that caused the stature of Lynne Stewart to be elevated in some quarters and hatefully vilified in others, as demonstrated in an article published shortly after Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman died on February 18, 2017 – following 22 years of solitary confinement in U.S. custody – by Benjamin Weiser in The New York Times titled, “Lynne F. Stewart, Lawyer for ‘Blind Sheikh’ Omar Abdel Rahman, Has No Regrets.”
Mr. Weiser first marvels that (by the Grace of ALLAH) Lynne Stewart outlived her 18 month medical prognosis, then at the fact that she was unbowed and unbroken vis-à-vis the opinion she still held regarding her former client. Mr. Weiser then proceeds to paint Lynne Stewart as having been embroiled in her own terrorism conspiracy. Let me set the record straight! Lynne ended up being prosecuted, and having her license to practice law taken away, solely because of her courageous and zealous defense of a vilified client (and that client’s human rights). Her prosecution was also meant to send a chilling message to members of the New York Bar Association, that if you as practicing lawyers cross certain lines, this is what can happen to you!
Following his conviction for “seditious conspiracy” – not for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center – Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman was imprisoned under a SAMs (special administrative measures) order – which entails highly restrictive, and closely monitored, confinement conditions. During a tumultuous period in Egypt (during the Mubarak era), when there was an opportunity to secure some measure of peace, Lynne publicly delivered a message from Sheikh Omar on the matter at hand (via press conference). This was the reason she ended up not just being administratively sanctioned, but criminally prosecuted!
With that said, there does indeed appear to have been a conspiracy to attack a number of targets in New York City in the early to mid-90s, and at the heart of that conspiracy was an Egyptian-born, FBI paid, informant-provocateur by the name of Emad Salem. This government agent had reportedly served in the Egyptian army, and later came to America in search of security and his slice of the American dream.
In his thought-provoking memoir, My Life As A Radical Lawyer, the late William M. Kunstler, wrote (on page 335): “I had evidence that Emad Salem, the government’s confidential informer, was himself involved in the WTC bombing. Not only had he confessed to the crime during a conversation with an FBI agent that he had secretly recorded … but he was hospitalized less than three hours after the blast with a middle ear attack. We had information that Salem was prone to these attacks when exposed to shots or explosions; he has suffered a similar attack when he fired a rifle on a practice range without wearing earplugs.” In the late 90’s, a producer at WBAI-FM presented this writer with an audio copy of that same telephone conversation that Emad Salem had with his FBI handler.
It should also be noted that after Sheikh Omar and his alleged co-defendants were safely put away, Emad Salem received a large sum of taxpayer dollars and a new identity (for services rendered) courtesy of Uncle Sam!
Sheikh Omar told Time magazine, “When I came here, I was fleeing oppression. Now I am facing the same oppression. I came here to avoid prison, and I was put in prison. I came here to smell freedom; I found it to be suffocating [in America].”
I sincerely believe that a significant number of innocent Muslims were wrongfully imprisoned as a result of the “terrorism conspiracy” trials, and the associated entrapments, of the 1990s – and that the post 9/11 era has seen a dramatic increase in the number of “bogus” (to use Lynne’s description) terrorism-related convictions.
With the passing of Lynne Stewart we have one less soldier on the field of battle to help us salvage the American ideal of liberty. May ALLAH be pleased with what she gave; and may we all learn from her example.
The struggle continues…