Tuesday, October 12, 2010

International Struggle to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal: EU Asked to Address Political Prisoner’s Plight

From freedomarchives.org:
From:  Pan-African News Wire

Hearing set for November 9 while supporters remain on world-wide alert

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
News Analysis

On November 9, 2010 a critical hearing is scheduled in the nearly three decade-old case of journalist and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who still sits on death row in the state of Pennsylvania. Mumia was severely wounded and arrested on December 9, 1981 in Philadelphia and was later charged, tried and convicted of the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner.

A grossly unjust prosecution was carried out against Mumia in 1982 and he was convicted of murder and given the death penalty. His case has been appealed over the years, where although the death sentence was overturned, repeated efforts by the prosecution have attempted to re-institute the penalty and carry out an execution.

Resulting from a January 19, 2010 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Third Circuit was ordered to reconsider the 2001 and 2008 decisions that rescinded the death penalty in Abu-Jamal’s case. There is an ongoing campaign by law-enforcement agencies across the country to pressure the court system into carrying out the execution of Mumia.

An international defense campaign for both the freedom of Abu-Jamal and for the elimination of the death penalty in the United States has grown since the early 1980s. The International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, MOVE and other organizations have been consistent over the years in not only saving the life of this award-winning writer and hero to millions around the globe, but in raising the profile of other political prisoners incarcerated in the U.S.

There were two death warrants signed against Mumia: one in 1995 and another in 1999. Both warrants were stayed by the courts after both national and international campaigns were waged to save the life of this former Black Panther Party leader and supporter of the MOVE organization.

During the struggle to stop the execution of Mumia in 1995 and 1999 people were mobilized in his defense from all over the U.S. and the world. A key element in building massive support for overturning the death sentence and demanding his release was the role played by activists, journalists, trade unionists, intellectuals and political officials in Western Europe, Africa, Japan and other parts of the globe.

Leading figures such as former South African President Nelson Mandela and his ruling African National Congress, along with former Archbishop Desmond Tutu, came out in support of Mumia and demanded that the scheduled execution be stopped. These developments took place in the immediate aftermath of the defeat of the racist apartheid systems in South Africa and Namibia in which people in the U.S. and all over the world had participated.

Mumia’s articles, interviews and books were published in numerous countries and served to win further support for his release as well as the abolition of the death penalty in the United States, which has for over a century been implemented in a racist and class-oriented manner. In specific reference to Mumia’s case, the fact that he had been a leading member of the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia was used in the penalty phase of his trial in order to place him on death row in Pennsylvania.

Mumia had also been a staunch critic of the police in Philadelphia where numerous complaints of brutality and misconduct were leveled over the years. On August 8, 1978, when the MOVE organization was attacked at their residence, he sought through his journalism to vindicate the 9 members who had been arrested, charged and convicted in the murder of a police officer killed in the law-enforcement operation.

European Union Discusses Mumia’s Case

The death penalty in the United States has gained attention in recent weeks due to the execution of two mentally-disabled inmates Teresa Lewis of Virginia and Holly Wood of Alabama.   At present 35 states in the U.S. still have the death penalty, although 4 have not carried out any executions since 1976 when the practice was re-instituted after it was overturned in 1972.

In 2009 there was an increase in executions in the U.S. to 52 persons killed by the state through capital punishment. The Obama administration is not opposed to the death penalty and has not spoken out in regard to the most recent executions in Alabama and Virginia.

The European Union foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton was urged recently to raise the death penalty in the United States along with the current plight of Mumia Abu-Jamal. In a European Parliamentary debate on October 6, Danish MEP Soren Sondergaard stated that he “deplored “ the execution of defenseless inmates including Mumia

Sondergaard also noted that “The death penalty itself is a crime. But it is often more than that; waiting on death row in miserable conditions for years is torture. Capital punishment is also a form of terror, used to frighten people from resisting oppression and dictatorship.”

The European Parliament member went on to say that “African-American journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal -- the voice of the voiceless—is a key symbol of struggle against the death penalty. For nearly 30 years he has sat on death row, convicted in a trial notable for its errors and racism.

“High representative Ashton should raise the case with U.S. authorities—in the fight against the death penalty there is no room for double standards. In the fight against the death penalty there applies only one standard: unconditional rejection.” (Article by Martin Banks, October 7)

In a resolution that had already passed on October 2, the European Parliament went on record opposing the executions of both Mumia Abu-Jamal and Troy Davis of Georgia. Davis’ case has also won international support. Nonetheless, Davis too remains on death row for a crime he did not commit.

German Left Party delegate Sabine Loesing, who was active in passing the October 2 resolution opposing the death penalty and specifically mentioning Mumia Abu-Jamal and Troy Davis, was pleased that the document was adopted with broad support. Losesing also said that she would make sure that adequate pressure be placed on the EU foreign affairs office of Catherine Ashton to raise this issue during meetings with the Obama administration.

E MAIL: panafnewswire@gmail.com

Strange Bedfellows: The Death Penalty, Mumia Abu-Jamal and the European Parliament

Published on This Can't Be Happening ( http://www.thiscantbehappening.net)
Created 10/12/2010 - 08:20
by: Victor Grossman

Berlin -- What do the USA, China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and North Korea have in common?

The answer may surprise you.

The European Parliament answered this question on October 2nd with passage of a resolution singling out that seemingly disparate list for criticism.

The embarrassing common thread among these six countries: an obsession with putting lots of people to death. The US, its key oil ally Saudi Arabia, its major trading partner China, its targeted enemies of Iran and North Korea, and its puppet ally Iraq all endorse the barbaric state-sanctioned practice of the death penalty, and lead the world in applying that terrible and irreversable sanction.

In a long, detailed EU Parliament resolution, approved almost unanimously by 574 members (only 25 opposed and 39 abstained), the members from all over Europe named people languishing on death rows and threatened with execution in several countries.

That EU resolution specifically highlighted two American death row inmates: Mumia Abu-Jamal in Pennsylvania and Troy Davis in Georgia. Both of these black men were convicted of killing white police officers in trials marred by ineffective defense and gross misconduct by police and prosecutors. The twin defects of ineffectiveness and misconduct are a common feature in many of the three-thousand-plus persons on death rows across America, and especially in the nearly 140 cases that have been overturned thanks to DNA testing or other belatedly discovered proof of innocence.

In the Abu-Jamal and Davis cases, federal and state appeals courts in America have dismissed compelling new evidence of innocence and documented legal improprieties violating the constitutional rights of these two inmates.

In the Davis case, a federal judge in June 2010 rejected professions from four persons who said they lied during Davis’ 1991 trial and also rejected testimony from three witnesses who named the real killer, including one witness who testified to seeing the real killer shoot the policeman.

Both Abu-Jamal and Davis has consistently maintained their innocence.

True, as this EU resolution pointed out, the USA cannot match China, which killed about 5000 inmates last year, but it is was still near the top behind Iran, with 402, Iraq at least 77 and Saudi Arabia with at least 69. In the USA the number executed was 52. The EU delegates also voiced regret at the recent executions of Holly Wood in Alabama and Teresa Lewis in Virginia despite both women being mentally retarded.

It was noted that 154 countries have abolished the death penalty completely or almost completely (with occasional exceptions such as for wartime treason). In Europe only Belarus has failed to do so, while the new constitution of far-off Kyrgyzstan just joined the ranks of those countries which generally agree, as the resolution points out, that “the death penalty is the ultimate cruel and inhuman and degrading punishment, which violates the right to life as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, and “detention conditions created by the death penalty decision amount to torture that is unacceptable to states respecting human rights.”

The EU Parliament resolution reports that “various studies have shown that the death penalty has no effect on trends in violent crime…whereas evidence shows that the death penalty affects first and foremost underprivileged people.”

That conclusion in the EU resolution concerning the class nature of the death penalty mirrors findings of a study on death penalty practices in the USA released in April 1932. This study by then noted statistician Dr. Frederick Hoffman documented how capital punishment was “enforced chiefly against Negroes, aliens and the poor, while the rich and influential succeed for the most part in escaping” execution. Not much has changed since then, with 35% of the 3260 people currently on death row in the US being black and 7% percent being Latino, while nearly all, regardless of race, are from low-income backgrounds.

The EU delegates, after listing cases in other countries where pressure is needed, noted that “35 states in the USA still have the death penalty, although 4 of them have not held executions since 1976” and that while executions increased to 52 in 2009, “some states have moved against the death penalty through measures including a moratorium on executions or its abolition”.

The gradual abolition of the death penalty in the USA relates more to money than morality, as cash-starved states can no longer afford the enormous cost of capital prosecutions and specialized death row prison units. The state of New Jersey, for example, halted death penalty proceedings in 2007 upon discovering that it cost $253 million dollars to secure 60 death sentences, fifty of which were later reversed by courts due to various improprieties.

The double reference to the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal indicates the level of concern in many European countries about his case, considered typical for many others. Abu-Jamal’s case, now 29 years old, is nearing some kind of decision, possibly a fatal one. On November 9, 2010 the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals will conduct a hearing to determine if Abu-Jamal will again face execution or will spend the rest of his life in prison. The court system has already rejected all of Abu-Jamal’s appeals seeking to overturn his conviction.

A delegate of Germany’s LEFT party, Sabine Loesing, who was particularly active in getting this resolution passed, told how happy she was that so many from a wide range of political parties had voted for the resolution and added that she would see to it that the pressure on Catherine Ashton, foreign minister of the European body, would not let up so that she raises the position of the resolution whenever she meets with leaders of states – like the USA – where capital punishment still prevails.

VICTOR GROSSMAN is an American expatriat living in Germany. He contributes occasionally to ThisCantBeHappening!

Source URL: http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/248