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Ailing Attorney Lynne Stewart Released from Prison

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A former civil rights attorney convicted in a terrorism case is back in Brooklyn after being released from prison years earlier than expected because of her continuing health issues. NY1's Mahsa Saeidi filed the following report.

After years of agony, Lynne Stewart's family is elated, celebrating not just the new year, but also a homecoming.

The 74-year-old former civil rights attorney experienced her first day back at home in Brooklyn after serving more than 49 months for terrorism-related crimes.

"There's some big words for it, like euphoric, floating on the edge of the world, and also a strange sense of, am I going to wake up in a minute and this is all a dream," Stewart said.

"I knew that the alternative was not acceptable," said Ralph Ponyter, Stewart's husband. "We either get this day or Lynne in a box."

Doctors said that Stewart's breast cancer has spread to other organs. They predict that she may have less than 18 months to live, and so prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Prisons recommended that she be set free on compassionate grounds. On Tuesday, a judge agreed.

"I fought lions, I fought tigers, and I'm not going to let cancer get me," Stewart said.

In 2005, Stewart was found guilty of helping her client, convicted terrorist Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, communicate with followers while he was serving a life sentence for plotting to blow up city landmarks.

Critics say she did not show any remorse for her actions. She didn't comment on that or her charges, but she did say she was grateful to be out of prison.

"I think I described it someplace as loveless," she said. "It's not a place where there's any great love."

When Stewart landed in LaGuardia Airport Wednesday, she was surrounded by some of the folks who have been fighting for her release for years.

"We had tremendous support, tremendous support," Stewart said. "We had over 40,000 people sign the petition."

"Eighty countries. Every continent except Antarctica. Every state in the United States," Ponyter said.

Stewart said that she got a firsthand look at some of the issues plaguing the prison system, so in addition to focusing on her health, she wants to fight for reform parts of the criminal justice system.

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