Chapter members and dozens from the community gathered in front of the federal building in San Francisco on August 1 to demand the release from federal prison of Guild member Lynne Stewart. Stewart, an attorney who spent her professional life representing poor and controversial clients, remains in prison despite her age of 73 and terminal cancer with a life expectancy of less than 18 months. Her prosecution and imprisonment are viewed by many as an attempt to intimidate all those in the legal community who would zealously defend targets of the so-called “war on terror.”
Speakers at the San Francisco rally included NLG national executive vice president Nadia Kayalli, former FBI target and attorney Stephen Bingham, chapter executive director Carlos Villarreal, as well as represenatives from prisoners' rights groups, unions and political prisoner solidarity organizations.
In 2002, Lynne Stewart was targeted by then-President George Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft for providing a vigorous defense of her client. She was charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist activity after she exercised both her and her client’s first amendment rights by presenting a press release to a Reuters journalist.
In 2006, Judge Koetl, handed down a 28-month sentence noting: “By providing a criminal defense to the poor, the disadvantaged and unpopular over three decades, it is no exaggeration to say that Ms. Stewart performed a public service not only to her clients but to the nation.” That sentence, however, was not to stand as the Second Circuit Appellate Court remanded the case, demanding a more harsh sentence. On July 15, 2010, Judge Koeltl increased Stewart’s to 10 years – a virtual death sentence for Stewart.
The National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada as well as notable figures, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, Daniel Ellsberg, Daniel Berrigan, Noam Chomsky and 26,000 persons of conscience in the U.S. and internationally have petitioned the Bureau of Prisons to file a motion for compassionate release for Lynne Stewart as specified in the 1984 Sentencing Act.
The latest on Lynne Stewart's condition and her struggle for freedom can be found at lynnestewart.org.