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Case Against Attorney Was a Stretch

Monday, February 21, 2005; Page A26

Regarding the Feb. 18 editorial "Over the Line": There is a difference between "crossing the line of propriety," as the editorial characterized me as saying about Lynne Stewart, the activist lawyer recently convicted on terrorism charges, and crossing the line of criminality. The latter warrants prison; the former doesn't. The editorial seems to have confused the two.

Ms. Stewart was convicted for having issued a press release in 2000 announcing that her client, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, had withdrawn his support from a cease-fire in Egypt but also noting that any decision about the cease-fire was up to the people in Egypt. The statement did not call for violence, much less terrorism, and it did not prompt any violence.

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Yet Ms. Stewart was convicted of having provided support to terrorist activity, without having called for or incited any terrorist activity.

How was this accomplished? By trying her in the most inflammatory way, putting her on trial with a man who explicitly has called for terrorism, and introducing extraneous and prejudicial evidence, including statements by Osama bin Laden and evidence of the bombing of the USS Cole, even though there was no claim that Ms. Stewart or anyone else on trial had any connection to al Qaeda.

That the government would go to such lengths to get a "terrorism conviction" against a 65-year-old woman who has never committed violence is what is so chilling to defense lawyers.



The writer is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

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