17 October 2006

A tale of two lawyers

Generally, mentioning this profession is as likely as not to cause a few derisive remarks. In this case, though, we are talking about two jailed lawyers. Which, again, may serve as a source for another remark or two, but let's look at the cases first.

Chen Guangcheng (China)

Chen Guangcheng, a blind lawyer from Shandong province (See An "independent" legal kingdom and a blind lawyer). While Chen has been an advocate for the rights of ordinary citizens for many years, he attracted the attention of the local government when he publicized its abuses of power in implementing family planning, including forced abortions and sterilizations, which are illegal. A central government investigation confirmed Chen's discoveries, but local officials kept him under house arrest and finally charged him with "intentionally damaging public property and inciting traffic disorder", even though he had been under their watch during the times he allegedly committed these crimes.

Chen faced trial on August 18. A few lawyers in Beijing had agreed to defend him but they were not allowed in the court room. Instead, two lawyers chosen by the state represented Chen. Later in the week, Chen's sentence of four years and three months in prison was announced

Lynne Stewart (USA)
Attorney Lynne Stewart, who was convicted of helping an extremist Egyptian cleric pass messages from prison urging his followers on the outside to launch terrorist attacks, was sentenced to 28 months behind bars.

Stewart, 67, was charged with aiding a U.S.-designated terror organization, the Islamic Group, wage a broad murder and kidnapping conspiracy. Federal prosecutors said she and two men convicted with her helped her former client, the blind sheik, Omar Abdel Rahman, transmit messages to the group's leaders in defiance of prison restrictions. The government had asked U.S. District Judge John Koeltl in New York to impose a 30-year term. In a plea for mercy, Stewart implored the judge to "Permit me to live out the rest of my life productively, effectively and righteously.''

Koeltl said he handed down a lighter sentence because of Stewart's "extraordinary personal characteristics,'' including her decades of service as a defense lawyer. Her attorneys had asked the judge to impose no prison time, citing Stewart's poor health. She's recovering from a bout with breast cancer.
Interesting, isn't it? In China a person gets four years and three months for the same qualities that shortened the sentence of the American lawyer by something like 10-15 years...

Now your comments, please. To make your analysis easier:
Stewart, whose clients have included mobsters and radical leftists, had said she was prosecuted for her role as an outspoken lawyer.
Cross-posted on Yourish.com