Misplaced Compassion

When radical attorney Lynne Stewart agreed to defend Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind terrorist who had plotted to bomb New York tunnels, she was given full access to her client — but  with one strict condition.

Concerned that the terrorist sheik would use his attorney as a messenger to communicate with his followers, Ms. Stewart was required to sign a series of documents promising that she would not abuse her attorney-client privilege to aid and abet terrorism.

“Nor shall I use my meetings, correspondence or phone calls with Abdel Rahman to pass messages between third parties (including, but not limited to, the media) and Abdel Rahman,”  read one of these documents, that she duly signed and was legally binding as a sworn oath.

In May 2000, only weeks after one of her visits to her client, then being held in Rochester, Minn., Ms. Stewart called a Reuters correspondent in Egypt and read a political statement the sheik had dictated to her during the visit.

Word of the sheik’s views, in which he pulled his support for a cease-fire by his terrorist followers in Egypt, quickly spread across the Muslim world.

When Stewart was put on trial for aiding terrorism, she remained defiant and further compounded her crimes by committing perjury when she testified in her own defense.

She eventually received a 10-year prison sentence for her crimes, and was scheduled to be released in August 2018.

But on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl ordered Stewart released, after the Federal Bureau of Prisons recommended she be granted “compassionate early release,” as doctors have given her a diagnosis of a terminal, incurable illness with a life expectancy of less than 18 months.

Stewart’s release brings to mind the case of Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi, a Libyan terrorist who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the downing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people, including 189 Americans.

After serving only eight years in jail, Megrahi was freed from custody by Scotland in 2009, on humanitarian grounds. Scottish officials claimed at the time that Megrahi had less than three months to live, but his release was widely seen as part of a deal for Libya to steer oil and gas contracts to Britain.

Megrahi returned to Tripoli to a hero’s welcome and, much to the outrage of the relatives of his victims, he went on to live for another three years — a free man in the comfort of his own home.

The freeing of terrorists and those who aid them is a tragic exhibit of misplaced and misguided compassion.

Chazal teach that he who is merciful toward the cruel, ends up being cruel towards the merciful. The very same federal government that has chosen to free a terrorist abettor — one who has never expressed any regret for her heinous actions — continues to keep behind bars a man whose only crime was to pass classified information to an ally. As we have repeatedly noted in these pages, there are numerous compelling reasons why the continued incarceration of Jonathan Pollard is a shocking travesty of justice, and why President Obama should promptly commute his sentence to time served.

Pollard, whose only motive was to help an American ally, has repeatedly expressed remorse for breaking the law.  Granting a commutation is the right thing to do. It would also be a be an act of genuine compassion.