Justice denied again for Lynne Stewart

July 4, 2013

Radical lawyer Lynne Stewart has suffered another terrible injustice. Her application for compassionate release from prison so she could battle cancer has been rejected.

Outrageously, the explanation for the Federal Bureau of Prisons' denial was that Stewart's "health is improving," according to a letter received by Stewart's partner, Ralph Poynter. This is a bald-faced lie. Stewart's condition has gotten worse, according to the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee--anti-cancer treatment in a prison hospital was halted because she was too weak to continue, and she is being kept in isolation because her white blood cell count is so low that she is at risk for infection.

Thus, the worst fears of her friends and supporters may be realized: The barbaric 10-year sentence imposed on her after she was found guilty of fabricated charges of "supporting terrorism" may well become a death sentence. In reality, Stewart was never guilty of anything other than defending a client, but she was targeted by vindictive federal officials as part of the "war on terror." Stewart's application for compassionate release was recommended by the warden of the facility where she is incarcerated and was vetted by bureau officials, but top officials stepped in with the denial.

Now, supporters are vowing to redouble their appeals to the federal government to save Stewart's life. In this message released by her defense committee, Stewart herself had this to say in reaction to the government's action.

My Dear Friends, Supporters, Comrades:

I know we are all disappointed to the marrow of our bones and the depths of our hearts by the news that the bureaucrats, Kafka-like, have turned down my request for compassionate release.

Let me say that we are planning ahead. The letter from the BOP is flawed, to put it mildly. Both factually and medically, it has major problems. We intend to go to court and raise these in front of my sentencing Judge Koeltl. At the first sentencing, he responded to a query by one of the lawyers that he didn't want me to die in prison--we'll see if he can now live up to that. He is, of course, the same judge who increased my sentence to 10 years--but this IS very different, and we can only hope that we can prevail. Stay tuned for what we need from you. We will never give up.

In the meantime, once again, I grieve for my children and grandchildren who love me so much and had such great expectations of enjoying life together again in our beloved NYC, and not just trying to, in the prison visiting room. My Ralph, too, whose dedication and love are only exceeded by the work he does on my behalf. But he is a born fighter, and although he hurts, it all comes more naturally to him.

Lynne Stewart speaks to an antiracist demonstration in 2008
Lynne Stewart speaks to an antiracist demonstration in 2008 (Thomas Good)

But for everyone else, I hope that your affront at this crass bureaucratic denial of the request, which you by your signatures and letters and phone calls, demanded--how far can we let this go? When a 73-year old woman who IS dying of cancer (maybe not on their timetable), her life of good works ignored, can be shunted aside: "she does not present circumstances considered extraordinary and compelling...at this time." We must show them that I cannot be ignored, that YOU cannot be ignored.

Fight On--All of Us or None of Us. An affront to one is an affront to all.

Love Struggle,
Lynne Stewart

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