Speaking out for Lynne

Protesters outside the White House to call for compassionate release for Lynne StewartProtesters outside the White House to call for compassionate release for Lynne Stewart

SUPPORTERS OF radical attorney Lynne Stewart are planning a day of protest in Washington, D.C., and beyond on Monday, June 24, to try to win her compassionate release from federal prison so she can be treated for breast cancer.

Stewart's friends and supporters will gather at noon for a rally and press conference at the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBP) headquarters at 1st and Indiana, where Stewart's partner Ralph Poynter, civil rights activist Dick Gregory, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and others have been holding a vigil for the past week. Afterward, the crowd will march to the White House for another protest on Barack Obama's doorstep.

Those outside Washington who want to show their support for Stewart are being asked to take time on Monday to call FBP Director Charles E. Samuels Jr. (202-307-3250), as well as President Barack Obama (202-456-1414) and Attorney General Eric Holder (202-514-2001).

Stewart's petition for release was approved by the warden of the prison in Texas where she is incarcerated, and has been vetted by federal officials, but the final okay is still pending. As Poynter said in a statement:

Every minute's delay compromises Lynne Stewart's life and her access to the comprehensive treatment plan prepared for her at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York...Her weakened condition and the ominous drop in her white blood cell count required the prison to place Lynne in isolation, as she faces the risk of generalized infection.

What you can do

June 24 will be a day of protest to call for compassionate release for Lynne Stewart. Supporters will meet at noon the vigil site outside the Federal Bureau of Prisons at 1st and Indiana.

If you can't come to Washington, please call these federal officials to demand immediate action on her petition for compassionate release: Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuels Jr. at 202-307-3250, Attorney General Eric Holder at 202-514-2001 and President Barack Obama at 202-456-1414.

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.

This is why Poynter and the others have taken their call for justice to seat of the U.S. government.

Participants in the vigil at the FBP say they have gotten a warm reception from some employees who took leaflets about Stewart inside the headquarters with them. Asked later if Director Samuels had seen the fliers, the workers smiled and said they'd put them on Samuels' desk.

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THAT STEWART is behind bars at all represents a grave injustice. Renown for her decades of work as a defense attorney for political activists and those most vulnerable to government persecution, Stewart was herself targeted by the federal prosecutors in the wake of the launching of the "war on terror."

Specifically, Stewart was charged with aiding terrorism for issuing a press release on behalf of a client, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman. The Justice Department claimed that Stewart's press release helped Abdel-Rahman communicate with an Egyptian organization he was banned from having contact with.

After a trial in which federal prosecutors shamelessly played on fears of terrorism to cover for the lack of any real evidence against her, Stewart was found guilty. She was originally sentenced to 28 months in prison, but prosecutors--absurdly claiming that Stewart was a threat to "national security"--asked the judge for even more time behind bars. The judge complied, and Stewart was given a 10-year term.

That will be a death sentence unless the Federal Bureau of Prisons acts immediately. Stewart was able to battle breast cancer into remission before her incarceration. But due to the strains of imprisonment and poor-quality medical treatment, the cancer has returned and has spread to her lymph nodes and lungs. Doctors classify the cancer as stage four.

Pressure from Stewart's supporters pushed the warden at FMC Carswell to approve compassionate release, but the FBP is dragging its feet. It's important for activists everywhere to add their voices to the call to release Lynne Stewart now.

Dick Gregory, who has been fasting in support of the call for Stewart's release, said: "I urge you to join me in demanding freedom for Lynne Stewart. Her unwavering dedication as a selfless advocate for the poor and oppressed is legendary. None of us should stand by idly while Lynne suffers and withers away day by day to die in prison."