April 24, 2013
In a London Guardian/Observer
May 28, 1961 article titled, "The Forgotten Prisoners," AI's founder Peter Benenson (1921 - 2005) defined the term as follows:
"Any person who is physically restrained (in prison or otherwise) for expressing any opinion which he (or she) honestly holds and which does not advocate or condone personal violence."
"Open your newspaper any day of the week, and you will find a report from somewhere in the world of someone being imprisoned, tortured or executed because his (or her) opinions or religion are unacceptable to his (or her) government."
"That is why we have started Appeal for Amnesty (AI), 1961. The campaign, which opens today, is the result of an initiative by a group of lawyers, writers and publishers in London, who share the underlying conviction expressed by Voltaire: 'I detest your views, but am prepared to die for your right to express them.' "
Howard Zinn called dissent "the highest form of patriotism."
"In fact, if patriotism means being true to the principles for which your country is supposed to stand, then certainly the right to dissent is one of those principles."
"And if we're exercising that right to dissent, it's a patriotic act."
"One of the great mistakes (about) patriotism....is to think (it) means support for your government."
"When governments have become destructive (of life, liberty and equality), it is the right of the people....to alter or abolish" it.
She called prisons warehouses to "disappear the unacceptable....to deprive their captives of their liberties, their human agency, and to punish....(to) stigmatize prisoners through moralistic denunciations and indictment based on bad genes - skin color (ethnicity, or other characteristics) as a crime."
Countless numbers of prisoners in America aren't incarcerated "because they are 'criminals,' but because they've been accused of breaking (a law) designed to exert tighter social control and State repression."
At issue is scapegoating, demonizing, and criminalizing them for their beliefs and activism.
Police state America targets them. It brutalizes them. It locks them in cages. It does so for opposing war, resisting injustice, and/or defending freedom, equality and human rights.
In the Vol. 18, 2002 Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal
, J. Soffiyah Elijah headlined, "The Reality of Political Prisoners in the United States: What September 11 Taught Us About Defending Them," saying:
In a post-9/11 climate, they "and their lawyers have been targeted for renewed abuse."
Constitutional protections don't matter. Spurious charges override them. Guilt by accusation is policy. Innocence is no defense.
Corrupt prosecutors and hanging judges intimidate juries to convict. Long imprisonments follow. Injustice defines today's America. Lawyers like their clients are vulnerable.
Michael Steven Smith
co-hosts WBAI's Law and Disorder. He's a Center for Constitutional Rights board member. He's a lawyer like Lynne. He discussed her sentencing.
On April 9, 2010, she was wrongly indicted. On February 10, 2005, she was convicted on all counts. On October 17, 2006, she was sentenced to 28 months imprisonment.
On November 17, 2009, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit three-judge panel upheld the conviction. It falsely accused her of "knowingly and willfully making false statements."
It redirected her case to District Court Judge John Koeltl. I did so for resentencing. It instructed him to consider enhancements for terrorism, perjury, and abuse of her position as a lawyer. Koeltl was intimidated to comply.
On November 19, 2009, Lynne was interned at MCC-NY. Doing so preceded her transfer to Federal Medical Center (FMC) Carswell, Fort Worth, TX.
On July 15, 2010, Lynne was resentenced to 10 years imprisonment. It was for doing her job honorably, ethically, and heroically for 30 years.
Smith was there. "Judge John Koeltl buried her alive," he said. "We should have seen it coming when he told her to take all the time she needed at the start when she spoke before the sentence was read."
"It didn’t matter what she said. He had already written his decision, which he read out loud to a courtroom packed with supporters."
He "laid it on her: 120 months….He had given her a death sentence….She'll never get out."
Lynne's lawyer Jill Shellow Levine asked why so harsh. "He was candid. He was told to do it by his supervisors, the judges on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit."
It's "an institution for the elite." It's second only to the Supreme Court. It presides over America's financial center. It "makes policy…."
It made an example of Lynne. She's a war on terror victim. Koeltl got his marching orders. He threw the book at her. He nearly quadrupled her sentence.
He put an aging grandmother "on chemotherapy away for ten years and two year's probation after that for good measure."
"This is much more than meanness. It is ideology." It reflects America's dark side. It ravages humanity. It does so for wealth, power, privilege and dominance.
It targets non-believers. It does so unjustly. Lynne's one of countless political prisoners. Societies are best judged by how they treat their most disadvantaged, children and prisoners. America ranks with the worst.
"Understand," she said, "that the attack on me is a subterfuge for an attack on all lawyers who advocate without fear of Government displeasure, with intellectual honesty guided by their knowledge and their client's desire for his or her case."
Over 10,000 supporters worldwide petitioned for her compassionate release. She hopes that "effort can be a crack in the American bastion."
Join others and sign it. Do it because it matters. Spread the word. Urge others to sign. Access it through the following link:
Lynne's gravely ill. Vital surgery was delayed 18 months. Her breast cancer reached Stage Four. It spread to her lymph nodes, shoulder, bones and lungs.
It's treatable. FMC Carswell provides deplorable care. It's unprincipled and unconscionable. Weeks pass to see providers. Results take weeks longer. Treatment involves painfully shackling Lynne’s wrists and ankles to beds. Chains connect them.
It's standard practice. It's brutal. It's medieval. It's cruel and unusual punishment. It violates constitutional rights.
Lynne urgently needs proper care. She needs it now. Her condition took a turn for the worse. Her white blood cell count dropped sharply.
She's currently isolated. She'll be sent to a Fort Worth hospital for tests. It's unclear what she'll get there. She's been denied what she needs all along.
America's 1984 Sentencing Act grants prisoner rights. They include reduced sentences "for extraordinary and compelling reasons."
None rise to the level of life threatening illness. Lynne deserves compassionate release. Delay assures death.
The Jericho Movement
supports "amnesty and freedom for all political prisoners." It published her family's message. Her husband Ralph is a longtime human rights advocate.
"Lynne Stewart has devoted her life to the oppressed," it said. She's imprisoned for "providing her client(s) with a fearless defense." Doing so reflects "an assault upon the basic freedoms of us all."
"The sinister meaning" of Lynne's imprisonment "is unmistakably clear." It's "a virtual death sentence."
"We cry out against the bureaucratic murder of Lynne Stewart. We demand (her) immediate release to receive urgent medical care in a supportive environment….(We) call upon the Bureau of Prisons to act immediately."
Lynne's struggling to survive. Free her now. Doing the right thing is its own reward. Lynne worked tirelessly for justice. She deserves its full measure and more in her time of need.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."