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Support builds to demand the release of Lynne Stewart

By staff

Minneapolis, MN – In an effort to build support for the compassionate release of Lynne Stewart from prison, a delegation of community leaders met with staff at the office of Congressman Keith Ellison on June 20.

People’s attorney Lynne Stewart was accused of “material support to terrorism,” for the defense of her client, Omar Abdel-Rahman in the mid-1990s. Her ten-year sentence, itself unprecedented for an attorney acting on her client’s behalf, has become a death sentence.

Stewart has breast cancer, which had been in remission prior to her imprisonment in November 2009. The cancer has now reached Stage Four, spreading to her lymph nodes, shoulder, bones and lungs. Compassionate release from prison would allow Stewart to access the medical care that is her only hope for survival, or at least to spend her final days with loved ones.

Jess Sundin, of the Minnesota Anti-War Committee, opened the meeting in Ellison’s North Minneapolis office by explaining to three staffers that Ellison’s constituents want him to take action on Lynne Stewart’s behalf. Sundin, as well as Tracy Molm of the University of Minnesota Students for a Democratic Society and Sarah Martin from Women Against Military Madness(WAMM), joined the effort in part because they are among the anti-war and international solidarity activists targeted by FBI raids and a Chicago grand jury investigating them for similar terrorism-related charges.

The grand jury resisters were joined by Bruce Nestor, of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, Pepperwolf and Lucia Wilkes Smith of WAMM, and Eric Angell of the cable TV program, Our World In Depth.

Staff member Rebecca Lucero told the group that Congressman Ellison sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, supporting action on Lynne Stewart’s petition for compassionate release. According to her, Holder has not responded to the June 12 letter.

The group called on Ellison’s staff to go further – urging Ellison to make a public statement supporting Stewart’s release and to initiate a Dear Colleague letter for more members of congress to sign. While the office made no commitment, the activists pledged to keep the pressure on.

Supporters should continue spreading the word and making the calls to Washington, D.C., where Stewart’s husband, Ralph Poynter, is maintaining a vigil outside the White House this week. Calls should be directed to Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuels at 202-307-3198, ext. 3; U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, 202-514-2001; and President Obama 202-456-1414.

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