Yesterday on Democracy Now! we began a discussion with the noted civil rights attorney, Lynne Stewart, 24 hours after she was indicted on charges of supporting terrorism. On Tuesday afternoon, Attorney General John Ashcroft accused Stewart along with her translator and two others of helping her client Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman deliver messages from his Minnesota prison cell to his followers in Egypt. Abdel Rahman is the man who was accused of leading the plot to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. He was ultimately convicted and sentenced to life in prison for plotting to attack the UN and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels. Two years later, he was barred from sending or receiving written or recorded messages of any kind from his prison cell. If his lawyers wanted to meet with him, they had to pledge to discuss only legal matters.
But according to John Ashcroft, Stewart broke this rule by helping Abdel-Rahman deliver coded messages to the members of his organization in Egypt. He says she allowed a translator to read and reply to letters sent by Abdel-Rahman’s followers. Ashcroft claims some of these letters advocated the resumption of "military operations" in Egypt. The Attorney General could not cite a single specific terrorist act that resulted from these communications, but he called them "very important signaling to the Islamic Group." The Islamic Group is the name of Abdel-Rahman’s organization in Egypt.
Stewart, her translator, and two others face possible sentences of five to 20 years in prison. Stewart was indicted Tuesday afternoon and released on $500,000 personal recognizance bond. The indictment also charges Mohammed Yousry, her Arabic interpreter, and Ahmed Abdel Sattar, a postal worker from Staten Island. Yousry’s bond was set at $750,000. Sattar was held without bail. A fourth man, Yassi al-Sirri, the head of the London based Islamic Observations Center, is being held in Britain after his arrest in October.
She joins us again in our studio today.
- Lynne Stewart, civil rights attorney.