Lynne Stewart Speech at Ramsey Clark’s 84th Birthday (Audio)

January 18th, 2013

To listen to Ralph Poynter deliver Lynne’s speech, please click the following link: RAMSEY CLARK and IAC BDAY (MP3 format. Right-click to save)

Lynne Stewart’s Message for Ramsey Clark, January 12, 2013 (Presented by Ralph Poynter)

Ramsey Clark and I have known each other for a long time but we only became face to face and personal friends after 1994.

In the 60’s Ramsey represented government enforcement and I was very anti-government, so you can draw your own conclusions! By 1976, I had hung out my law practice shingle and he was once again a private citizen and a lawyer defender. I was aware of his worldwide work as an ambassador to less than popular regimes, his candidacy to the Senate and of some of his cases–Ruchel Magee and the action at the Alameda County court house, Leonard Peltier, the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.

However, it was not until 1994 that we embarked on our professional and personal relationship, which has now widened and deepened into something rich and fine.

The story of my meeting with Ramsey in 1994 is one that I have repeated often and love to tell. I had learned from a number of sources that a search was underway for a lawyer to represent Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman in his upcoming sedition trial (better known as the landmarks case). I got a call from Abdeen Jabarra at my office asking if he could bring by some of the materials and talk to me about the case. Apparently Ramsey had been approached by a concerned group of Egyptians here in America, because the Sheik was representing himself with the “help” of an appointed ex-US Attorney lawyer, and they believed it was less than desirable for trial. He was blind, unfamiliar with English and would require an interpreter and finally was unfamiliar with the legal/courtroom procedures. The point was also made to me that Sheik Omar was a person of extraordinary religious repute and integrity–a highly respected Muslim scholar, a PhD graduate, despite his handicap, from Al Aztar University in Cairo. We would be viewed with contempt throughout the middle east and the world if the progressive community in the US could not arrange to have him defended with one of our very best political lawyers.

Numerous candidates had gone to the jail behind the federal court and interviewed the Sheik. There was a very limited amount of money available to provide a retainer in a
case that was projected to last for at least 6 to 8 months and that was due to begin shortly. I too went down to speak to him–not sure at that point if I even wanted the case but out of respect for Ramsey and Abdeen, I went. Everyone knows that that first interview sparked the kind of attorney-client chemistry that was to last for the next fifteen + years, but on that day, I still wasn’t sure. I had a heavy schedule. I knew what a lengthy trial can do to a healthy law practice. Most importantly, I am a compulsive preparer with a great memory, who always knows the case before the trial, better than the agents and the prosecution, and I would have no time to do so in a case in which my co-counsel had been getting ready for months if not years. The Judge would grant no adjournments. I felt I just couldn’t do it. I remember going with my husband Ralph Poynter, to Ramsey’s beautiful loft office in the Village on a Saturday afternoon in November to tell him so. I learned that day what had made this man the dauntless and persuasive Attorney General of Selma and the South of the 60s. He listened to all my reasons patiently and then unfolded his long lean Texas frame to stand and to say “Lynne, you are the only one who can do this. There is no-one else. I know how difficult it is but if you are going past a burning building and there’s a little child in there, you can’t stop to say, I need my fireman’s boots, my fireman hat, my tools, my ladder–you know you have to save that little one. You must do your best. There is no choice. You are it.” Well, after Ralph murmured his concern about my safety — not a real
problem, except for the government — I accepted and was committed and have remained so ever since.

Ramsey Clark and Abdeen Jabara made up the rest of this “dream team” but I was lead counsel. The Judge, Michael Mukasey, a Zionist, gave us no quarter pre trial, during the trial or after, but we carried the fight. Ramsey and I had differences over trial tactics but committed as we were to client-centered representation, the final decision was always the Sheik’s. After the bitter ending of the trial, in which the defense was not allowed to be presented to the Jury (one of the few times I have wept in a courtroom), we still went forward. There was no question that we would continue our representation, but that Ramsey and Larry Shilling would take over responsibility for the appeal.

I can say with complete honesty that I have never had the good fortune to work with a better or more committed attorney than Ramsey Clark, and I have worked with many. He was always generous, always understanding, always brilliant. The next years saw a deepening of our regard for each other. The phone calls; the long distance visits, meetings with the persons who had been concerned initially about the Sheik’s representation; we did all we could to zealously represent him.

Faced thereafter with the devastating loss of the Appeal and the imposition of the Special Administrative Measures on the Sheik, by the government–we still went forward, although our agenda was limited. We realize now that the Prison Conditions first at Springfield, Missouri, and later in Rochester, Minnesota were tantamount to extreme solitary confinement. Our client deteriorated physically and mentally and we fought for him, including keeping him from being “disappeared” off the world political scene. Ramsey did more than I could. He visited the client, fielded most of the prisoncalls and went to Egypt to keep supporters and family up to date. We both made press releases on the Sheik’s behalf, notwithstanding the attempt by the Government to stifle his voice. There was one occasion where the government in Afghanistan had made contact and offered to exchange a group of U.S. missionaries for Dr. Rahman. The date of our discussion and making of plans for Ramsey to go to Washington was September 10, 2001. Needless to say, after the events of the following day, the world had shifted and that offer was never acted upon.

Six months later, my own world shifted when I was arrested for a press release I had made on behalf of the Sheik in May/June 2001, which the government now characterized as material aid to a terrorist organization. In all the years that have followed Ramsey Clark has never wavered in his loyalty to me or the cause we both served as attorneys. He never hesitated to make known that he had equally, if not more so, done all that I had done but was never even admonished, much less prosecuted. He took the witness stand and testified at the trial. (I will tell you parenthetically that it was some of the most riveting testimony I had ever heard in a courtroom, when, speaking in his soft Texas drawl, as he recounted his dedicated work in the South–Selma, Birmingham, Little Rock, as Attorney General of the United States. You could have heard a pin drop when he ended by saying, “All those people wanted to do was vote.”)

Since the trial, Ramsey Clark has remained a stalwart for me. He has written letters to the Judge at BOTH sentencings. After I was hustled off to prison, he has always been available to my family and supporters and he came to Texas to visit me; to the adoration and respect of all the old timers on the prison staff. I am still fighting the injustice of my prosecution and sentence and I know he is with me every step of the way. Our professional regard from 1994 has continued to grow and our personal relationship can only be described as loving–not in the Hollywood sense, but in the love one shares with a comrade, a brother. A tribute to him cannot hope to measure up to the stature he has maintained for a lifetime. My friend, and warrior in the fight against injustice, my dear compadre Ramsey Clark.

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