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US judge releases dying civil rights lawyer convicted of aiding terrorism

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Lynn StewartA federal judge has granted Lynne Stewart, a prominent former civil rights attorney who was convicted of aiding terrorism, a "compassionate" release from prison because she is dying of cancer.

Stewart, 74, has been serving a 10-year sentence for her 2005 conviction on helping a client, blind Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, smuggle messages from prison to Egypt's Islamic Group, which the U.S. government had listed as a terrorist organization.

Abdel-Rahman was convicted in 1995 of conspiring to attack the United Nations and other New York City landmarks, following the 1993 truck bombing at the World Trade Center.

The case against Stewart, known as an advocate for poor, underprivileged and unpopular defendants, was widely decried by civil rights groups. She was praised by the ACLU for representing Guantanamo detainees when many would not.

Stewart had asked U.S. District Judge John Koeltl in Manhattan for early release under a Federal Bureau of Prisons program for terminally ill inmates.

Koelt denied the request in August, noting that the Bureau of Prisons had not supported it. On Tuesday he granted it, following a recommendation for release from the prison bureau and the U.S. attorney in Manhattan.


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