A dying former civil rights lawyer convicted for passing on a fatwa from a terror sheik client imprisoned in the United States was released from prison on Tuesday, six years into her 10-year sentence.
Prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Prisons recommended the release to a judge because she’s suffering from cancer that has metastasized to her lungs and bones and she has less than 18 months to live.
“It’s just really wonderful,” 74-year-old Lynne Stewart said in a telephone interview after being freed from the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas. “I’m very grateful to be free. We’ve been waiting months and months and months.”
U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl signed the release order after government lawyers filed a letter in Manhattan federal court earlier Tuesday saying Stewart qualified for early release.
“The director of the Bureau of Prisons contends, and this court agrees, that the defendant’s terminal medical condition and very limited life expectancy constitute extraordinary and compelling reasons that warrant the requested reduction,” the judge wrote.
He said Stewart, who had been undergoing treatment at the Fort Worth medical center, would be released when travel arrangements could be made.
Stewart left hours later with her husband, Ralph Poynter. They were headed home to New York.
Stewart was convicted of helping Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind Egyptian terrorist sheik, communicate with his followers while he was serving a life sentence in a plot to blow up five New York landmarks and assassinate then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Among the messages was Abdel-Rahman’s reply to a question sent by the terror group he headed that they should not cease their terror campaign against Western targets in Egypt.
She has been imprisoned since 2009 and wasn’t scheduled for release until August 2018. She was first diagnosed with cancer in November 2005. Stewart wrote to the judge, saying she didn’t want to die in “a strange and loveless place” and wanted to go home.
A previous compassionate-release request was denied in part on the grounds that Stewart had more than 18 months to live, though the judge said he would act promptly if the Federal Bureau of Prisons agreed she had less than 18 months to live and granted a compassionate-release application.