Behind Bars

Punishing Lynne

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

Lynne Stewart, the activist-lawyer, was recently sentenced to ten years in prison. This outstanding lawyer, a 70-year-old grandmother, who is facing the serious threat of breast cancer, was originally sentenced to two years and four months, but the Federal Appeals Court apparently thought that wasn’t enough.

The same Appeals Courts that traditionally reverses the convictions of cops who torture or kill Black citizens, who traditionally rely on the judgments of the trial judges, reversed Stewart’s sentence as not tough enough, so much for tradition.

For Lynne’s tradition wasn’t that of the tony “tie and tails” law firms in Manhattan. She didn’t represent the rich, the powerful, the well heeled. She represented the poor, the oppressed, the dispossessed, the Black, the Latino, the Arab, the damned, those who Franz Fanon called the wretched of the earth.

The juxtaposition—many, many lawyers in the Office of Legal Council, in the White House, in the CIA and the Defense Department violated criminal laws, the military codes, the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture, to aid and abet violations of law and the Constitution for years.

Guess how many of them faced trial? Guess how many of them will in the future? How many of them will ever face prison? None, none, and none, for their crimes were on behalf of the powerful, hence their immunity.

But consider what is known in international law as the supreme crime, wars of aggression. Iraq will be a basket case for generations, thanks to U.S. arrogance and greed.

Will anybody be brought to book for this crime that shattered a nation, that sent millions into exile, and killed perhaps a million men, women and children? Don’t hold your breath.

There are still black sites, secret prisons where tortures happen daily. There are still extraordinary renditions, clear violations of the Convention Against Torture, but politicians are doing it not to protect the Nation, but to secure elections—torture for votes, and a 70-year-old grandmother, a lawyer, is sent to prison for ten years for violating a prison rule that is an unconstitutional relic of the so-called war on terror.

This is what an empire in decline looks like.

From death row, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal., July 18, 2010