From the new Centre of the Psyclone blog.
As a criminal defense lawyer for over 30 years, Lynne Stewart defended the poor, the disadvantaged and those targeted by the police and the State. Such has been her reputation that judges assigned her routinely to act for defendants whom no attorney was willing to represent. One of these was the blind Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman.
In 1994, Stewart joined former US attorney-general Ramsey Clark as part of the legal defense team for Abdel-Rahman. He had been arrested the year before and charged with conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, not actual terrorist acts.
His real crime was being part of an armed Islamic group in Egypt that sought to overthrow dictator Hosni Mubarak, at the time a staunch US ally.
Any group that fights a US ally is slapped with the label “terrorist”. That happened with the armed wing of the African National Congress, because it fought against the US-supported white racist apartheid regime in South Africa.
Stewart came to believe the “Blind Sheik”, as the press called him, was innocent.
Adbel-Rahman was indeed blind, and suffered from other serious medical problems. After his conviction in 1995, he was sentenced to life in prison plus 65 years ― a sentence Stewart called “outlandish”. He was interred in a prison medical facility, where he has remained since.
Stewart continued to visit him in prison, and represent him regarding post-conviction issues. In 2000, Abdel-Rahman asked her to release a statement from him to the press, which she did.
At the time, this action on her part was not viewed as a crime by the US government. But that changed after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
In 2002, Bush’s attorney-general John Ashcroft announced that Stewart was being indicted on the grounds that, by releasing the statement to the public, she was materially aiding a terrorist group.
The government claimed that the sheik was using the press release to communicate with his group in Egypt, Al-Gama al Islamiyya, which the US arbitrarily labelled a “terrorist” group.
Actually, at the time, Abdel-Rahman backed a ceasefire between the group and the Mubarak regime. However, he left it up to the fighters on the ground to decide whether to continue the ceasefire.
(It should be noted that the new Egyptian government is demanding the US release Abdel-Rahman.)
This was the basis for the “materially aiding” a terrorist group charge. The charge was dismissed in 2003, but she was soon re-indicted on charges of obstructing justice and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism. In 2006, while the Department of Justice demanded a 30-year sentence, Judge John Koetl, handed down a 28-month sentence noting: “By providing a criminal defense to the poor, the disadvantaged and unpopular over three decades, it is no exaggeration to say that Ms. Stewart performed a public service not only to her clients but to the nation.”
That sentence, however, was not to stand as the Second Circuit Appellate Court, withdrew Lynne Stewart’s bail — even though her case is still before the courts — and remanded the case back to Judge Koetl with the harsh demand that he revisit his sentence and issue a severely enhanced one. On July 15, 2010, Judge Koeltl increased Stewart’s sentence from 28 months to 10 years imprisonment. This has become a virtual death sentence for Lynne Stewart as breast cancer that had been in remission prior to her imprisonment metastasised.
The conservative medical prognosis by the oncologist contracted by the prison is that Lynne Stewart has but 16-months to live. Breast cancer, in remission prior to her imprisonment, reached Stage Four more than a year ago, emerging in her lymph nodes, shoulder, bones and lungs.
Despite repeated courses of chemotherapy, cancer advances in her lungs, resistant to treatment. Compounding her dire condition, Lynne Stewart’s white blood cell count dropped so low that she has been isolated in a prison hospital room since April 2013 to reduce risk of generalized infection.
Under the 1984 Sentencing Act, upon a prisoner’s request, the Bureau of Prisons can file a motion with the Court to reduce sentences “for extraordinary and compelling reasons,” life threatening illness foremost among these.
A Compassionate Release was recommended months ago by Warden Jody R. Upton, under whose watch Lynne has been incarcerated at Carswell Federal Prison. Months later a three paragraph response came from Kathleen Kenney, General Counsel for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C. which stated that Compassionate Release had been denied on the grounds that Lynne’s “health is improving.”
A recent re-application for compassionate release meets all the criteria specified in guidelines issued by the Bureau of Prisons in August 2013. That application is still awaiting approval.
Your action now can lead to her freedom so that she may live out her remaining days with the comfort and joy of her family and those closest to her, including her devoted husband Ralph Poynter, many children, grandchildren, a great grandchild and lifelong friends.
Given the current state of the US administration, the so far called for actions such as contacting various members of the administration, aren’t likely to get much attention, but that shouldn’t prevent us from taking action or letting up on the pressure on the government to do the right thing.
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
CHARLES E. SAMUELS, JR.
Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, NW
Washington, DC 20534
Re: Lynne Stewart, #53504-054 Compassionate Release
ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER
CHARLES E. SAMUELS
Call the US embassy or consulate in your own country.
Other actions such as rallys and vigils have been planned to coincide with Lynne’s 74th birthday on October 8th. Join or set up one in your own locale. Let others know about the case and encourage them to do something.
Write to her. She needs your support! (I did recently with a letter full of prison and lawyer jokes, in the hope that it might give her a smile on her birthday.)
Lynne Stewart #53504-054
Federal Medical Center, Carswell
PO Box 27137
Ft. Worth, TX 76127
For more information: