Attorneys representing Lynne Stewart filed a motion this morning in federal court to dismiss the Justice Department’s indictment of the radical New York attorney.
Nine months ago Attorney General John Ashcroft accused Stewart, her translator, and two others of helping terrorists, namely her client Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Egyptian religious leader who was convicted of conspiring toblow up New York tunnels and bridges .
Her attorney Michael Tigar in a 100-plus page motion charges the Justice Department has unconstitutionally attempted to strip Stewart of her First and Sixth Amendment rights including the right of free speech and is setting dangerous precedents in its treatment of attorneys.
The government claims Stewart broke a federal agreement by helping Rahman deliver messages to his followers in Egypt. Ashcroft claims some of these letters advocated the resumption of "military operations" in Egypt.
After Stewart publicly read a comment of Rahman’s in 2000, the government obtained a secret warrant through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor her prison visits with the Sheikh and, it now appears, much of her practice beyond this case. When Attorney General John Ashcroft indicted her in April, agents raided her office and seized thousands of personal files between Stewart and her clients.
The government first attempted to silence her. Then secretly monitored her. Then took her paperwork. And then charged her with conspiracy and abetting terrorists.
Stewart says she was just doing her job, representing a client.
At the time of her arrest she said, "They’ve arrested the lawyer and the interpreter. How much further are they going? Are they going to arrest the lady that cleans the sheik’s cell?"
Stewart, who is 62 years old, now faces up to 20 years in prison.
The defense bar saw Ashcroft’s indictment as an unprecedented attack on the legal profession.
Representing Stewart is Michael Tigar, one of the nation’s most highly regarded defense attorneys. After graduating number one in his class at UC-Berkeley in the early 1960s he was hired to clerk for Supreme Court Justice Brennan. But Tigar hadn’t even begun the job before Brennan fired him for his anti-war views. Three years later Tigar would argue his first case before the Supreme Court.
He has since represented clients ranging from Mobil and MCA to Terry Nichols in the Oklahoma City bombing case to left-wing icons including Angela Davis and Abbie Hoffman. And he has fought against Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet and Henry Kissinger, the accused war criminal and former U.S. Secretary of State.
Tigar has consistently taken on issues of civil rights, the draft, free speech, government surveillance, the death penalty, and international human rights. He joins us today in our Firehouse studio.
- Michael Tigar, defense attorney representing Lynne Stewart.