Husband of jailed attorney Lynne Stewart says she should be released because of cancer

03/22/13 Seán Kinane
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In 2009 attorney Lynne Stewart was sentenced to a ten year federal prison sentence for material support of terrorism. She originally got 28 months, but the government appealed the sentence. Stewart’s offense was to issue a press release on behalf of her client Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman.

Her advocates are asking for her release because she has stage 4 breast cancer.

Lynne Stewart spoke in St. Petersburg in April 2005.

Stewart's husband, Ralph Poynter, chair of the New Abolition Movement and head of the Lynne Stewart Defense Organization.

"The question for lawyers is just how much justice can you afford? When you get Lynne Stewart you hit the lottery. You get great justice, the finest it can be and delivered in this, as Lynne says it, in this system that has so many sores and cankers and is so incorrect. She tries to level the playing system, the playing field with her talents. She knows it's difficult and she says with all of it's warts that the legal system has she tried to make up for them with pure energy, talent, and understanding. This is like, as the judge had once said, this is very strange for a fantastic lawyer to be poor. It's very problematic. In her famous cases she has dealt with all of the political movements in the country. The Black Liberation Party, the Black Panther Party, Weather Underground, Ohio Seven, SDS, and all of her adult life she has been involved in movements and she did the famous case of Larry Davis who was the young man who defended himself against the police. He shot 6 of them and Lynne beat that case on self-defense. In this day and age of police terror it's a very important case. She defended those who defend the right of self-defense. Richard Williams, who was accused of shooting New Jersey's most decorated trooper. Lynne Stewart did that case for 3 years and worked her heart out because she says everyone has the right of self-defense and was defending his right to live as a person who was looking for change in America. You know that those who work for change in America are on the list to be assasinated, killed. We have all of our political prisoners in jail, including Lynne Stewart herself, now. The recent letter from the warden in the prison she was in makes it very clear that they want to hold Lynne Stewart until she's near death and only then will she be eligible for leaving. We see Melon Buck, who was a person who worked for liberation and freedom died 2 weeks after they released her from jail. And this is the system, we have brothers who were in jail for 35 years, 30 years, 29 years and they served their sentence and still the system won't let them out. People are not aware of what's happening in America. I think, as Lynne Stewart says, she has a different hill to climb. She's a white American and she's aware that people will pay attention to her case more than they will to the cases of people of color who have struggled for liberation ever since this nation was founded. She's making an issue of political women in prison. She's making an issue of political prisoners and she's doing it in a fashion now that we never dreamed would happen to her. She's in jail because she defended the blind sheik who was falsely accused of blowing up institutions in New York City when the truth of it is the blind sheik was interested in one place on the planet. It was not New York, it was not America, it was the overthrow of Hasni Mubarak. The dictator that the United States has supported for 35 years and this was his only focus. Now we know the people of Egypt have finally overthrown Hasni Mubarak, he's on trial for his life but the blind sheik is in jail in the United States with a sentence of life plus 60 years in a trumped up trial and Lynne Stewart is in jail for the rest of her life unless we free her with pressure because she defended him. History has proven Lynne correct, she is called the mother of Arab Spring. This vicious government keeps her in jail because they are unhappy with people who try to make the words of democracy real."

We're speaking with Ralph Poynter, he's the husband of Lynne Stewart and you mentioned the blind sheik, that's Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman who Lynne Stewart was representing at the time she was arrested and accused of material aid. What did she do that the government accused her of aid to terrorism?

"She did the same thing that many lawyers have done before her, that is to make a public statement of what her client said. She made a statement through Reuters of her client who said he didn't see what the unilateral peace agreement with the government of Egypt was doing because they continued to arrest people, they continued to kill students, they continued to hold people in jail after their sentences were served. They continued to put people in jail without trial so he suggested that his organization reexamine the unilateral ceasefire against the Hasni Mubarak government, he said he withdrew his support from the unilateral ceasefire against the government, that he was not going to make, he could not make that decision because he was in the middle of America in jail but he said the decision should be made democratically but it should be revisited. For that statement Lynne Stewart was accused, and I hear it over and over again on major media, she was passing messages. There were no such messages passed. She did this through Reuters and this is not a secret organization, the last I looked. The messages you give to Reuters are not secret, the last I looked. Many lawyers before or since have made statements on behalf of politically accused clients including those at Guantanomo. No one was arrested or tried except Lynne Stewart so this is selective prosecution but the government has the right, they say, for selective prosecution. And if you use that right of selective prosecution and then no one is free. They can pick you out and many women say they picked Lynne because she's a woman. Many people who fought for freedom said they picked on Lynne because she has a history of helping progressives and many black people say she was picked on because she supported the movement for freedom of black people. Many immigrants say they picked on Lynne because she supported immigrant rights and it goes on and on. One of the things that is consistent, Lynne is the people's lawyer. The government is not happy with Lynne. They picked her out, they selectively prosecuted her. Ramsey Clark was her co-council. Ramsey Clark made most of the political statements. Other attorneys made political statements. Lynne Stewart makes one statement and her life is at risk."

"We ask people to continue supporting Lynne because now that she's in jail what she's doing is supporting women's rights in jail. She talks constantly about the lack of care and lack of legal support of women in jail. So she continues on but she needs our help now because the prison says she has from 2 to 3 years to live and she has 7 years on her sentence and she has a growing cancer. Prison is not conducive to the cure of any disease, particularly cancer. You cannot have the waiting time between examinations. Between examining the results and getting in line to get hospital care. She needs to be home in New York City where she says she has the advantage of class, race, and economy where she could get decent medical care. The best in the world, and food as medicine. Decently prepared food, sleep, she needs all of these things and without them she will surely die. With them, she has a chance of living a productive life. Her case, we hope, is before the Supreme Court. We filed the papers to challenge this whole First Amendment thing that the Obama Administration has done away with. The right of free speech and assembly, First Amendment, goes a long way back. It is gone in America and we want to point that out. You are not free to say the words that you want to say even if you have a place of assembly. We know what's happening in America. Lynne is one of the people who has fought for decency for all Americans and this has put her on the hit list of this US government."

Ralph Poynter, you're the husband of Lynne Stewart and you'll be in the Tampa Bay area this weekend for the 2013 convention of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement. Tell us what that is and where people can find out more.

"I have been associated with Omali Yeshitela for years because he has been fighting for the diaspora, for the rights of people, Africans born throughout Africa, throughout the diaspora to organize people, to understand issues, to understand that we all are colonies. That is colonies inside of America, colonies outside of America, but we all have a common interest and we link those interests with the interests of all people. Those who are interested in the conference should show up and attend and hear what people are doing and hear what the attitude of cooperation of these organizations exhibit. I will be there talking basically on Lynne Stewart and political prisoners but there is a total program of cooperation, world peace, self-defense, self-determination for all people."

Ralph Poynter will be in St. Petersburg this weekend to talk about Lynne Stewart at the 2013 Convention of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement at 18th Ave. South.

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