Cancer-stricken civil rights attorney pleads to be released from prison

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, May 14, 2013 12:44 EDT
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Civil rights attorney Lynn Stewart. Screenshot via Democracy Now.
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A cancer-stricken civil rights attorney, jailed over her legal representation of Egyptian cleric Omar Abdel-Rahman, is pleading for a compassionate release from prison due to her worsening medical condition.

73-year-old Lynne Stewart may not have much more time, her doctors say. Now fighting stage 4 cancer that’s spread to her lymph nodes and lungs, she’s looking at spending her final days inside a Ft. Worth prison if her request is not granted.

Stewart was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2005, then run by former Attorney General John Ashcroft. She’s been called an American “martyr” of the terror war by Pulitzer-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges, after being sentenced to 10 years in prison for distributing press releases on behalf of Abdel-Rahman, better known as the “Blind Sheikh,” who was under order to not communicate with the outside world.

Stewart’s supporters are planning a rally in New York City for Wednesday at noon, and more than 14,000 people have signed a petition demanding her release from prison, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other key civil rights activists.

Appearing on Tuesday’s edition of “Democracy Now,” reporter Renée Feltz, who recently interviewed Stewart in prison, said that her condition is declining and she’s now constantly in need of rest even to carry out simple activities like bathing.

“I hope that my imprisonment sends the wake up call that the government is prepared to imprison lawyers who do not conduct legal representation in a manner the government has ordained,” Stewart wrote to Hedges last month. “My career of 30-plus years has always been client centered. My clients and I decided on the best legal course, without the interference of the government. Ethics require that the defense lawyer DEFEND, get the client off. We have no obligation to obey [the] ‘rules’ government lays down.”

This video is from “Democracy Now,” aired Tuesday, May 14, 2013.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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