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Wednesday, 5 June 2013

She must be released now

Alan Maass reports on the struggle to win Lynne Stewart's release from prison.
Lynne Stewart speaks to an antiracist demonstration in 2008 (Thomas Good) 
Lynne Stewart speaks to an antiracist demonstration in 2008 (Thomas Good)
RADICAL CIVIL liberties lawyer Lynne Stewart and her supporters are continuing their fight to win Lynne's immediate release so she can be treated for stage four cancer at a state-of-the-art medical facility.
On May 30, Stewart and her partner Ralph Poynter called on supporters to demand immediate action from the Bureau of Prisons on a request for compassionate release made one month earlier. The request was approved by the warden of the prison where Stewart is being held, but no action has been taken in Washington, D.C.
"This could result in my being able to access medical treatment at Sloan Kettering so that I can face the rest of my life with dignity, surround by those I love and who love me," Stewart wrote to her supporters.
It is a travesty of justice that Stewart--renowned as a crusader for the rights of the oppressed and vulnerable against the power of the American injustice system--is in prison at all.
As part of the Bush administration's repressive clampdown after the "war on terror" was declared, Stewart was accused of aiding a client, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, in making contact with an Islamist organization in Egypt that he was barred from communicating with. Her supposed crime? She issued a press release on Abdel-Rahman's behalf.
What you can do
Lynne Stewart and her defense campaign asked supporters to call three federal officials to demand immediate action on her petition for compassionate release: Attorney General Eric Holder at 202-514-2001, President Barack Obama at 202-456-1414, and Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuels at 202-307-3250.
You can also sign a petition calling for Lynne's compassionate release.
Find out more about the struggle at the Justice for Lynne Stewart website. You can write letters of solidarity and support to: Lynne Stewart #53504-054, Federal Medical Center, Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Federal prosecutors charged her with support for terrorism, and despite the lack of evidence and the obvious political motives for the allegations, Stewart was convicted in 2005. She was sentenced to an already outrageous term of 28 months in prison. But prosecutors--absurdly claiming that Stewart was a danger to "national security"--got a judge to expand the sentence to 10 years.
As Stewart and lawyers said at the time, that was akin to a death sentence since she was battling breast cancer at the time of her sentencing.
Sure enough, tests last fall showed the cancer had reappeared in one lung--though Stewart wasn't told for a month, during which time it spread to the other lung. In a message to her supporters in early May, Stewart said that after a recommended four rounds of chemotherapy, the severity of the cancer in her lymph nodes and sternum had improved somewhat, but it was unchanged in her lungs and still classified as stage four.
Stewart has made some progress with the federal prison bureaucracy in getting her compassionate release petition okayed by the warden directly responsible for her. But more pressure is needed to get action from the Bureau of Prisons.
As Stewart wrote in a message to those who signed a petition calling for her release: "I want you, individually, to know how gratifying and happy it makes me to have your support. It is uplifting, to say the least, and after a lifetime of organizing it proves once again that the people can rise."


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