After a hard-fought battle with the Bureau of Prisons, Brooklyn lawyer Lynne Stewart lost her bid for a compassionate release from jail. The 73-year-old was diagnosed with breast cancer even before she was jailed in 2009, and her condition continued to deteriorate.
Manhattan Federal Judge John Koeltl dumped the request, saying that further imprisonment while suffering from metastatic cancer did not rise to the level of cruel and unusual punishment.
The Voice has followed this story since Stewart first went to trial in 2005. She was convicted for carrying messages out of prison for Omar Abdel-Rahman, otherwise known as “The Blind Sheikh,” issuing press releases on his behalf. Abdel-Rahman was in prison for the 1993 plotted assassination attempt of then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Stewart called continued imprisonment barbaric in a statement she released to the New York City Anarchist Black Cross when she first filed the request, calling herself a “political prisoner.”
I know we MUST win my fight and the struggle for all other political prisoners to be freed. And then we must struggle for all to be free in this country.
Despite her oncologist writing to the court on her behalf, Judge Koeltl dismissed the request on constitutional grounds, noting that if Stewart wanted a compassionate release, she should have filed for one explicitly. Koeltl wrote in his decision that “A court lacks authority to reduce a sentence of imprisonment under the compassionate release statute unless a motion is filed by the director of the BOP.”
Though he did leave the door open for a future request. “The Court would give prompt and sympathetic consideration to any motion for compassionate release filed by the BOP, but it is for the BOP to make that motion in the first instance.”