Lynne Stewart on her arrival at the airport
After years of persistent struggle, people’s lawyer Lynne Stewart was freed from prison on Dec. 31, 2013. Lynne suffered through over a decade of legal harassment and four years of cruel imprisonment before a federal judge granted her “compassionate release,” a demand that had gained support from high profile figures around the world. Lynne has been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer.
She was welcomed home at the airport by an overjoyed crowd of supporters and her husband, Ralph Poynter, who has led the movement that secured her release.
Lynne was sentenced to prison on inflated charges from 2002 stemming from her defense of a client facing prosecution under anti-terrorism laws. As part of the post-9/11 crackdown on civil liberties, people facing certain charges, including Lynne’s client, had their right to communicate with the outside world severely restricted. She was accused of breaking this rule, and during this especially intense period of anti-Muslim hysteria was given an extremely harsh sentence.
It is easy to see why authorities targeted Lynne. For decades she has served as a dedicated “movement lawyer,” defending those who are the victims of government repression for their political activities, as well as people who are not activists but have been swept up in the monstrously unjust U.S. court system. Her activism in the courts and the streets is an inspiration to all those who believe justice is worth fighting for.
It was the fighting spirit that she demonstrated throughout her life that led to the end of her unjust imprisonment. Tens of thousands signed petitions, made phone calls and engaged in other acts of protest to pressure the so-called “justice” system to release her. This cruel crackdown on a brave fighter for the oppressed became an international embarrassment for the U.S. government.
High profile figures lent their support to the movement to free Lynne, amplifying the mass pressure. Alice Walker, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Cynthia McKinney and Dick Gregory all called for her freedom.
The ANSWER Coalition joins with the thousands around the world who are celebrating the release of Lynne Stewart, and is committed to fighting for the principles she held firm to throughout her ordeal.