Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mumia Abu-Jamal: crucial decision on the way

from Freedom Socialist • Vol. 28, No. 5 • October-November 2007

Wall mural in Lisbon, Portugal, demands freedom for Abu-Jamal.
Photo: Anne-Marie Algemo

Supporters of imprisoned African American journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former member of the Black Panther Party, continue to wait hopefully for an imminent decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Abu-Jamal has spent 25 years on death row after being framed for the killing of a Philadelphia policeman in 1981. His case has won international attention for its revelations of racism, fraud and bias in the legal system. It has brought to the foreground the right to a fair trial, the inhumanity of the death penalty, and the system’s particular vindictiveness toward Black radicals.

After numerous thwarted attempts to appeal his verdict and sentencing and to bring new evidence before the courts, a three-judge appeals court panel heard arguments on the case in May 2007. As we go to press, a decision is expected at any moment.

Fateful decision. As described by Abu-Jamal’s attorney Robert Bryan, the possible rulings by the panel are these:

• An entirely new jury trial on the question of Abu-Jamal’s guilt;

• A new jury trial to consider the issue of life imprisonment or the death penalty;

• A return to the lower U.S. District Court for further proceedings; or

• Denial of all relief.

Whichever side loses can be expected to seek a rehearing and to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for an appeal. But, as neither of these legal recourses is likely if the panel rules against Mumia, a great deal rides on its decision.

Days of action. If the panel does rule negatively, Mumia’s hope for keeping avenues of appeal open lies with strong public protest. The International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia and other support organizations are calling for immediate protests in the streets if the panel’s ruling is unfavorable. “Day after” activities are planned in several cities. Among them:

In Philadelphia, there will be a march from the scene of the 1981 confrontation at 13th and Locust to the Federal Building. In San Francisco, the Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal has announced a demonstration at the Federal Building.

Two separate rallies are planned in New York City. The Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition and the Harlem Campaign to Name a Street in Honor of Mumia Abu-Jamal will congregate at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building from 5:00-8:00 p.m. (1-4 p.m. if the day after is a Saturday). The Partisan Defense Committee has called for a rally at the Federal Building in Lower Manhattan from 5:00-7:00 p.m. (1-4 p.m. if a Saturday).

In Seattle, the Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women are calling on people to attend a next-day demo at 4:00 p.m. at the downtown Federal Courthouse. In Portland, Oregon, RW and FSP are organizing a gathering from 4:00-6:00 p.m. at Terry Schrunk Plaza across from the Federal Building. Come prepared to speak at an open microphone if you have something to say, and bring picket signs and banners!

And a national demonstration in Philadelphia is being called for the third Saturday after the decision.

A voice that will not be silenced. While all wait on tenterhooks, Mumia himself continues his masterful and galvanizing commentaries on political happenings in the U.S. and the world. His deeply insightful commentaries on issues such as U.S. atrocities in Iraq, defense of the Cuban Five, racism in sports, and the commutation of Kenneth Foster’s death sentence (see story on page at left), can be read at www.prisonradio. org. Mumia refuses to censor himself or tailor his message to accommodate notions of “respectable” dissent. Instead he courageously seeks to educate the public about the radical realities of class and race in the U.S.A.

For instance, in his commentary “The Politics of Promises” (Aug. 15, 2007), he says, “For millions of people, the hunger for an end to the Bush regime is gnawing at their innards.

“But are they hungry for a Democratic warmonger, in the place of a Republican one?

“Is that change — or the same old madness, in another wrapper?”

Meanwhile, a new documentary on Abu-Jamal, In Prison My Whole Life, will screen simultaneously at London and Rome film festivals in October. This powerful film is sure to rally thousands more to Mumia’s defense.

The world needs this man alive, free, and mobilizing for justice.

Watch for the latest case updates at the websites of New York City and San Francisco coalitions www.freemumia.com and www.freemumia.org.

Write to Mumia at Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI Greene, 175 Progress Dr., Waynesburg, PA 15370.

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