Repression against U.S. political prisoners ongoing
By Saeed Shabazz
Updated Nov 21, 2008, 12:05 am
NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) - A week after the Jericho Amnesty Movement held October rallies and workshops here to commemorate their 10th anniversary as a coalition dedicated to freeing political dissidents in U.S. prisons, there were charges that repression continues.
(Part two in a two-part series)
“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.
The Leonard 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, Ga.
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.
“When I 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.
Lance Tapley, 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.
“People 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.
Mr. Hameed 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 said.
Mr. Hameed was the fifth political prisoner to die behind bars in this era, advocates said.
“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.