Dying Defense Lawyer Lynne Stewart Freed from Prison on ‘Compassionate Release’
A dying former defense attorney imprisoned for aiding terrorism has been granted an early ‘compassionate release’ by a federal judge.
Lynne Stewart, 74, was freed on orders from US District Judge John Koeltl on Tuesday after serving nearly four years of a 10 year sentence for assisting terrorism. Stewart was convicted in 2005 of conspiracy to defraud the United States, providing and concealing material support and making false statements. She was found guilty of smuggling messages from imprisoned terrorist Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, aka the Blind Sheik, to his followers in Egypt. Abdel Rahman is serving a life sentence for seditious conspiracy in connection with the deadly 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.
Judge Koeltl wrote that Stewart’s “terminal medical condition and very limited life expectancy constitute extraordinary and compelling reasons that warrant the requested reduction [of her sentence].” His ruling is a reversal from his August 2013 rejection of a request that would have allowed her to die surrounded by family and friends. Koeltl said he could not release Stewart until her request was approved by the Bureau of Prisons, which had previously denied her release because it said she was not ill enough. But her doctor has given her less than 18 months to live, prompting Koeltl to grant a ‘compassionate release.’
Back at her home in Brooklyn, Stewart told NY1 that she was feeling “euphoric.”
“There’s some big words for it, like euphoric, floating on the edge of the world, and also a strange sense of, am I going to wake up in a minute and this is all a dream,” she said.
Stewart remains upbeat about her medical condition.
“I fought lions, I fought tigers, and I’m not going to let cancer get me” she told NY1.
Stewart added that she experienced first-hand many of the problems plaguing US prisons, and that she would dedicate herself to criminal justice reform.
Stewart’s supporters argued that she was a political prisoner. Washington College of Law Professor Emeritus Michael Tigar told Global Research that Stewart was targeted for “speaking and helping others to speak.” Tigar called the charges against her “an attack on the First Amendment right of free speech, free press and petition.” The government’s ‘evidence’ against her “was gathered by wholesale invasion of private conversations, private attorney-client meetings, and private faxes, letters and emails.”
“I have never seen such an abusive use of government power,” Tigar added.