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Thursday, 10 October 2013

A birthday spent in prison

Crusading defense attorney Lynne Stewart spent her 74th birthday in prison this year--where she has been since 2009, unjustly imprisoned.
Stewart was targeted by the Bush administration for providing a vigorous defense to Muslim cleric Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman as part of a terrorism trial. For the "crime" of reading a press release on behalf of her client, she was tried, convicted and eventually handed a 10-year sentence--after prosecutors objected to her first sentence as too "lenient."
The warden at the prison where Lynne is incarcerated, FMC Carswell, has approved compassionate release for Stewart, who is suffering from a severe recurrence of cancer. The Federal Bureau of Prisons, however, denied her request. Since then, Stewart's prognosis has worsened--meaning that time is of the essence in securing her release.
In a statement to supporters on her birthday, Stewart calls for help to free her from prison.
Lynne Stewart speaks to an antiracist demonstration in 2008 (Thomas Good) 
Lynne Stewart speaks to an antiracist demonstration in 2008 (Thomas Good)
IT IS certainly sobering to be celebrating the start of my 74th year mired down in this prison. It is even more so when there is my lifeline that must be considered.
Nonetheless, I remain my ebullient self, and face my fight and my future with optimism. Part of the reason for this is the wonderful mail I receive daily from people all over the U.S. and the world. From Tasmania to Tel Aviv (!?), people write and tell me of the role I play and have played in their lives. It is overwhelming sometimes.
Today, I have asked you all to rally once again on my behalf. (Little did we know they would close down the federal government last week. A conspiracy to keep me here? Smile). By coming out and making another statement on my behalf, I think you are taking a stand for everyone behind bars. They can lock us down but they cannot lock us away from the people, who are now coming to have a different sense of the futility and cruelty of the prison system, and who will take action if called upon.
I am happy to be the poster girl, oops, woman for this. I know it will never be a some time thing for me and that when I am in the world again (and I WILL BE IN THE WORLD AGAIN!) this struggle is one that I must continue. I hope we all give a heartfelt wish for health and release for Herman Wallace, a valiant warrior, our brother comrade, who is dying in Angola, after 40 years of solitary. [ed.--Herman Wallace died a free man shortly after his release.]
What you can do
Send your message to Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Samuels and to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, by signing the Change.org petition for Lynne Stewart.
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.
Hoping that it is a glorious day wherever you are hearing this--my mom always remarked that the Sunday I was born was perfect weather. I guess I am waxing nostalgic, but blow out the candles and have a bite of the birthday cake and know that I am indebted to all of you and to our movement for the fabulous and courageous support you have shown me over these years.
We go on to victory for one elder woman (me) but also to express our outrage at this heartless system.
Lynne Stewart,
Prisoner #53504-054
Visit the Justice for Lynne Stewart website for birthday messages from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Fr. Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, Ed Asner, Dick Gregory, Medea Benjamin and Code Pink, Richard Falk, Chris Hedges, Zachary Sklar, Ralph Schoenman and many more people around the world.


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