Will the U.S. execute a journalist?
New trial denied to political prisoner on death row
In 1995, Mumia Abu-Jamal was only ten days away from execution when a world-wide outcry forced the government to back down and grant a stay of execution.
With the Oct. 29 denial of a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal by Pennsylvania's Supreme Court, newly re-elected Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge can now set Mumia's execution date in the next 30-60 days. This news prompted demonstrations all over the world on November 7--from Cape Town, South Africa, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to London to Nashville to and Seattle there were marches in protest of the impending execution.
Mumia Abu-Jamal's case concentrates the criminalization of black me, the suppression of dissent, the expanded death penalty, the gutting of defendant's rights, and a whole political atmosphere based on blame and punishment of the most oppressed.
Abu-Jamal was a prominent radio journalist who allowed the angry and anguished voices of the oppressed onto the airwaves. For example, when the Philadelphia police bombed the headquarters of the MOVE organization, were guilty of murdering men, women and children and nearly burning down a whole city block, Abu-Jamal exposed their corruption and brutality. In retaliation, he was framed on a murder charge by the Philadelphia police.
In December of 1981, Abu-Jamal was shot by a Philadelphia cop and almost died when he came upon a scene where his own brother was being beaten by that cop.
The police officer was also shot and killed, and witnesses saw two men run from the scene. Yet when other police arrived, they beat Mumia before taking him to the hospital. When they discovered that they had a prominent critic of the police department, he was immediately charged with murder.
Mumia's brother and witnesses at the scene were later harassed and driven out of town. No attempt was made to identify the men seen fleeing the scene. And the dead officer was holding the drivers license of yet another man. But it was only Mumia that the police wanted.
When people began to question the charging of Mumia, the police put forward the absurd story--two months after the incident--that Mumia had "confessed" in the hospital emergency room, and they had simply forgotten to mention it at the time or write it in their reports. The written reports and the emergency room doctor say this never happened.
Mumia was then barred from most of his own trial for protesting an incompetent court-appointed attorney who was later disbarred. Eleven preemptory challenges were used to knock almost all Blacks off the jury. Vital evidence was withheld from the defense, witnesses were intimidated, and the fatal bullet has "disappeared" from the police files.
The political motivation of the prosecution was made clear when the prosecutor argues for the death penalty by reading revolutionary quotes from Mumia's political writings.
In a recent hearing, a witness used against Mumia in the first trial came forward to say that she lied under police coercion. In retaliation, she was arrested in the courtroom as she stepped off the witness stand on an old warrant from another state that she knew nothing about.
All this takes place against a backdrop of a massive police scandal in Philadelphia. Dozens of people have been released from jail because they were originally convicted on the basis of phony evidence fabricated by the police.
Mumia has spent over 15 years in prison, facing execution for a crime he did not commit. In 1995 he was put in disciplinary confinement for writing a book, Live from Death Row.
The police frame-up of Mumia came at the end of the turbulent late sixties and seventies when the government declared war on the Black Panther Party and Black radicals in general. In Philadelphia under Mayor Frank Rizzo, much of this repression became concentrated on the city's war on the militant MOVE organization--a war that culminated in the 1985 police bombing of the MOVE house, the murder of 11 occupants (including 5 children) and the burning of 60 houses in the neighborhood.
Mumia had exposed an earlier police attack on MOVE, and had allowed MOVE activists to present their side of the story on the air. Before that he had been a founding member and Minister of Information of the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia. When Mumia's new lawyers obtained his FBI files, the found that he had been under government surveillance since he was 15 years old!
Refuse & Resist is part of the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, together with Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal and many other groups. Parliament members from Japan, France, Italy, Germany and other countries have protested to the U.S. government. His case has been taken up from Brazil to Bangladesh. Dozens of famous artists and writers have signed newspaper ads calling for a new trial. HBO and the BBC have broadcast compelling documentaries on his frame-up. Yet his life still hangs in the balance.
Much of the information in this article was received from Refuse & Resist, 305 Madison Ave., #1166, New York, NY 10165. (212) 713-5657.
Web site: www.calyx.com/~refuse
You can also call (215) 648-4505 or look at the website at www.mumia.org.
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