Repression against U.S. political prisoners ongoing
By Saeed Shabazz
The Final Call, March 12, 2009
A week after the Jericho Amnesty Movement held October 2008 rallies
and workshops in New York City to commemorate their 10th anniversary as
a coalition dedicated to freeing political dissidents in U.S. prisons,
there were charges that repression continues.
"More activism and
support is needed in the campaign to free Mumia Abu-Jamal,"
wrote lead defense attorney Robert R. Ryan, in an internet message to
supporters of the former Black Panther and journalist. "There are new
developments in the case that are the most significant and deadly since
his 1981 arrest. The prosecution has advised the U.S. Supreme Court that
they (will) seek reversal of the federal court decision, which granted a
new jury trial on the question of the death penalty," Mr. Ryan wrote.
Mr. Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing a White police officer in 1981.
Supporters said he was targeted because of his activism and was not
given a fair trial.
"If the U.S. Supreme Court rules for the DA
and overturns the federal court ruling, Mumia can be executed without
having a new penalty phase jury trial, which would allow us to introduce
new evidence which could free Mumia," said Mr. Ryan.
Peltier Defense/Offense Committee sent out an alert informing supporters
that the Federal Bureau of Prisons was planning to move the Native
American freedom fighter to another facility. "There seems to be a
strategy by the federal government to disrupt Leonard's defense
committee through these transfers," according to Betty Ann Peltier-Solana,
executive coordinator of the defense committee.
Ms. Solana said
attorneys asked that Mr. Peltier be transferred to a facility closer to
his home reservation, either a prison in Sandstone, Minn., or Oxford,
Wis. He is currently held at the federal prison in Lewisburg, Penn. Mr.
Peltier was convicted of murder in connection with a shootout between
FBI agents and members of the American Indian Movement in 1975.
The governors of New York and California are refusing to allow
Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim, members of the
San Francisco 8, to be transferred from their San Francisco County jail
cells to New York for parole hearings, supporters complain. "Judge
Philip Moscone signed an order in May allowing both men to return to New
York state for their parole hearings. All parties agreed at the time
that the move would be temporary; Herman and Jalil waived their rights
to fight extradition back to Calif.," wrote Claude Marks of the
California-based Committee for the Defense of Human Rights. According to
Mr. Marks, both men have served over 35 years in prison and have been
called model inmates.
The San Francisco 8 are awaiting trial on
charges they were involved in the 1971 killing of a police officer. "The
`SF8' is another example of how the government seeks to crush
self-determination and any challenges to the status quo," Mr. Marks told
The Final Call.
Harold Taylor, another SF8
member, was convicted on what supporters called "bogus" drug charges in
Panama City, Fla. He will be sentenced Dec. 9. Supporters contend he was
simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Mr. Taylor was already out
on bail in the SF8 case.
Karimah Al-Amin, attorney and wife of
Imam Jamil Al-Amin, formerly known as Black Panther
leader H. Rap Brown, told The Final Call the only thing her husband is
guilty of "is fighting for the rights of African Americans and fighting
for the rights of Muslims." Her husband spends 23 hours a day in a cell.
He is allowed five social visits a month and two phone calls a week.
Imam Al-Amin, who led an Islamic community in Atlanta, is serving life
without parole plus 35 years at the Supermax facility in Florence,
Colo., for the fatal shooting of one Atlanta deputy and wounding of a
second deputy in March 2000.
The imam served five and a half
years in administrative segregation in the state prison at Reidsville,
Mrs. Al-Amin said on Oct. 6, the Supreme Court agreed with
the Georgia Circuit Court of Appeals that the prison administration at
Reidsville violated the imam's first amendment rights by opening his
legal mail and denying visits from his attorney, who is also his wife.
"The state of Georgia must settle financially with my husband, but
they are hiding behind the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which prevents
inmates from getting a large settlement," Mrs. Al-Amin said. "We
consider Imam Jamil to be a prisoner of war," she said.
look at the names of those in Florence with my husband, you would have
to say it is a place for political prisoners," Mrs. Al-Amin added. Also
incarcerated at the federal facility are Dr. Mutulu Shakur
of the Black Liberation Army and the Republic of New Africa;
Sekou Odinga of the Black Liberation Army; Dr. Malachi
Z. York of the Nuwaubian Nation; Imam Malik Khaba
(formerly Jeff Fort), founder of the Blackstone Rangers street gang in
Chicago; Larry Hoover of Growth and Development,
formerly the Gangster Disciple street gang in Chicago. "They refer to
the prison as the `stateside Guantanamo,'" she said.
a journalist who has written extensively on prisons in the U.S., has
made critical observations on the use of
solitary confinement. "Supermax
confinement is repulsive, immoral mass torture that is historically
unprecedented. I would also suggest it is illegal under international
law," he told the National Lawyers Guild at its 70th
anniversary convention last October.
Solitary disrupts "profoundly the sense of
personality," meeting the Senate standard for one mark of mental torture
and the Senate recognizes mental torture to be a companion of physical
suffering, Mr. Tapley said.
Over the years political prisoners in
the U.S. have been represented by a battery of politically astute
lawyers, including Chokwe Lumumba, Lynn Stewart, Roger Wareham, Adjoa
Aiyetoro, Ashanti Chimurenga and Michael Tarif Warren.
don't know about the issue of political prisoners and prisoners of war
in the United States," Mr. Warren told The Final Call.
"People must be educated on how the system is violating their eighth
amendment rights. Take for instance, we fought to have Bashir
Hameed moved to a facility with a hospital that would help with
his cancer, but they let him die," Atty. Warren said.
was the New Jersey deputy chairman of the Black Panther Party and a
member of the Black Liberation Army. He was convicted in the 1981 murder
of a New York policeman and attempted murder of his partner. He was
given a 25-year sentence after three trials and died Aug. 30.
"This is a mean spirited system that is only concerned with
retribution, because they
perceive that these people are a threat to the system," Atty. Warren
was the fifth political prisoner to die behind bars in this era,
"Imam Jamil talks all the time
about the need to get the issue of political prisoners back on the front
burner," said Mrs. Al-Amin.
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