Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Lynne Stewart Gets Off Easy
It was a case of radical chic and the radical sheik. Yesterday in New York, Lynne Stewart, a self-styled "civil rights" attorney whose past clients include the Black Panthers and Weather Underground, was sentenced to 28 months in prison for illegally passing messages between her imprisoned client, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, and his followers in Egypt's Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, the terrorist group responsible for killing 62 mostly European and Japanese tourists in Luxor in 1997. Some of those tourists were beheaded; others were disemboweled. The Sheik was also involved in planning terror attacks in New York, for which he is serving a life sentence.
In an age when courts routinely impose five-year prison terms for drug offenders, and life sentences on former CEOs, 28 months may not seem an appropriate sentence for a terrorist accomplice, especially when the government sought 30 years. Ms. Stewart certainly had the sympathy of the judge, John Koeltl, who praised her as a champion of "the poor, the disadvantaged and the unpopular." She herself seems to have had few misgivings about her actions: "The government's characterization of me and what occurred is inaccurate and untrue,"she told the judge. "It takes unfair advantage of the climate of urgency and hysteria that followed 9/11."
In similar circumstances--albeit with a different defendant--a case could be made for leniency. Ms. Stewart is 67 and recovering from breast cancer. But remorse is also a prerequisite for mercy, and Ms. Stewart shows none, either for her crime or for the arc of a career which flows too naturally from championing the "liberation" movements of the 1960s to the Islamists of the present day. What her clients have in common is that they loathe America.
Now she basks in the pity and praise of her fellow radical travelers, who haven't seemed to spare much thought for the victims of Luxor. It says everything about her, and about them.