On New Year’s Eve, Lynne Stewart, a longtime civil rights lawyer who is suffering from breast cancer, was released from prison after a judge granted her request for compassionate release.
“From arrest to sentencing, Lynne Stewart’s case was used by the Department of Justice to send a chilling message to attorneys: Think twice about who you represent!” said Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, in a statement. “Today’s small measure of justice does little to repair the damage wrought by the government’s unjust prosecution of an advocate whose service to society has been widely documented.”
Stewart was convicted of providing material support to a terrorist organization for distributing information to the press for her client Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was convicted of conspiring to blow up the United Nations in New York. She served four years of her 10-year sentence.
“The greatest state is that of political prisoners who believe that the people will free them,” said Stewart’s husband, Ralph Poynter, in October while protesting and organizing for Stewart’s release. After her release, he said, “She has beaten in the first devil—that is the government; now, the devil of cancer, we have to beat.”
Stewart was reunited with Poynter on New Year’s Eve, and the two flew back to New York on Wednesday, New Year’s Day. Greeted by family, friends and supporters, Stewart told the press that she was “beyond joy” to be back in her “beloved New York.”
Since her return to New York, Stewart has been rushed around to various appointments with the Department of Probation and doctors. She expects to be admitted to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan as soon as she compiles her complete medical records.
Even though Stewart has been told by doctors that she only has 18 months to live and cannot go back into legal practice because she has been disbarred, she has said she plans to “work for women’s prisoners and political prisoners” in her remaining time.