TAGS: Criminal Justice System, Federal Prisons, Interview, Lynne Stewart, Mumia Abu-Jamal, National Lawyers Guild, New York Times, Patriot Act, Protest, State Prisons, Violation, 1st Amendment
GREAT AUDIO SCROLL DOWN
[Col. recorded 10/19/02]
Lynne Stewart: Good afternoon Mumia. What a pleasure this is.
Mumia Abu-Jamal: It is a pleasure for us both I hope.
LS: I think so.
MAJ: You have been seems to me. Singled out by the highest levels of the Justice department for something that was not a crime. Either now or even up until the signing of the infamous Patriot Act. Would you tell me what that was ?
LS: The Justice Department decided that things that I did as a lawyer are now to be outlawed. Are now to be made into crimes in order to deter other lawyers from vigorously defending people. What I basically did was I issued a press release on behalf of my client. They said that this press release was “materially aiding a terrorist organization”. And as they have accused so many others recently of that same crime, it seems to have no bounds what so ever, and can be used just about for anything.
MAJ: So was this essentially illegal communication with your client?
LS: Well they had put on us a certain prison regulation, ah this is something that Leonard Peltier also suffers under in the federal system, it is called a Special Administrative Measure. Which lawyers and clients, not clients, but people that we represent must sign on to say that you will not communicate with the press on behalf of your client, thus making it impossible for any First Amendment right to be protected. In other words Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman was entombed in Minnesota he was not allowed to communicate with anyone but his lawyers and his wife in Egypt, once a month. We in controvention of these regulations, did make press releases on his behalf, but it is only now that has become an indictable offense.
MAJ: Isn’t this kind of a- on its face violation of the first amendment?
LS: Isn’t! I could not agree with you more. But you know they hide everything behind that cloak of security within the prison and now of course security for the whole nation. They are going to be the protectors of Americans, they who have done so much to make it impossible to protect this nation.
MAJ: So is it not also a fact that the U.S. government through the Justice Department monitored your communications with your client?
LS: Yes this press release was in May of 2000. For the next six months they went back and forth about whether they would let me into the prison again. They finally said oh yes you can go into the prison and we entered the prison again, only meanwhile they had set their cameras and tape recordings. So that every conversation that I had with Sheik Omar by telephone or in the prison were monitored. They heard ever word that was said. In total degrogation of the Sixth Amendment and of course the attorney client priviledge which is part of that.
MAJ: It appears that is not just vanishing in federal prisons, it is vanishing in state prisons as well. Is that not so?
LS: Well I think so. You know the states are not very slow to follow any leads that big brother gives them, so I think that most lawyers nowadays are sort of looking over their shoulders and thinking to themselves, who may be listening in and if that doesn’t create a chilling affect as you well know assumed that they might be listening, but not that they might use these things as a basis for further prosecution.
MAJ: I would hope that you have heard from a number of your colleagues who are in stark protest against this latest governmental action?
LS: The New York times ah wrote a piece in their magazine called “Left behind”, I think more to encourage people to leave me behind, than to ah- but of course they have been saying that the left has been dead in this country for many years but to the contrary we are alive and well and I have gotten outstanding support, not only from the so called radical or leftist lawyers of the National Lawyers Guild and other organizations but from the other organizations but from the everyday mainstream lawyers who understand that if we can’t do this work, even within this racist criminal justice system, the way we have always done it, there will be no right to defend anymore. That right will just vanish. So I have gotten marvelous support, I once said that you have to die to find out how many people love you, but I am getting it in this life.
MAJ: Well that is very good to know. I think that it should also – it obviously I think be said that this is not kind of a lawyers right, this is a right of the accused?
MAJ: So it potentially affects thousands, if not tens of thousands of people, and perhaps millions.
LS: I said to a young documentary maker, you know it really not about whether or not this can happen to you, but it is really about is if it does happen to you, who are you going to call? Because there won’t be a lawyer to call. The whole movement aspect of lawyering will disappear completely as they just knock us off one by one. And to me that is the real essence of this work, is that we be permitted to lawyer in the way that we lawyered throughout the 60’s, the 70’s, the 80’s and defend people such as yourself in these cases as political people. Not just as defendant number 10872.
YOU HAVE ONE MINUTE LEFT TO TALK
MAJ: Lynn Stewart it is been my pleasure to talk to you and have others share our conversation, other than the government of course, and ah I support you, and I think what you are doing is quite wonderful.
LS: And I may say, Mumia I support wholeheartedly. I am sitting in front of beautiful banner with African Cloth saying Free Mumia and all political prisoners, and I been my work for thirty years and it will always be my work.
MAJ: We are going to have to create a new banner saying free Lynn Stewart.
LS: Yes, I am for that.
MAJ: Thank you very much.
LS: Thank you.
MAJ: All the best, Ona Move.
LS: You too dear. Bye bye