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WW inverviews member of Lucasville 5

Published Nov 11, 2007 9:20 PM

Siddique Abdullah Hasan, aka Carlos Sanders, was an imam, or prayer leader, for the Sunni Muslims at the state prison in Lucasville, Ohio, in 1993. During an 11-day siege of a portion of the prison, he was a spokesperson for the Sunni Muslims, helping to negotiate a peaceful end to the rebellion with the prison administration on April 21. Instead of accolades, the state charged him with the killing of a guard. He and four others, known as the Lucasville 5, received capital sentences. Only a few levels of appeal at the federal level are left for Hasan, but a growing movement of supporters is seeking to overturn his conviction entirely.

On April 7, Elaine Brown, former Black Panther Party leader and long-time prisoner advocate, spoke in Cleveland at a rally to campaign for the release of the Lucasville 8. From left to right, Betty Springer, Elaine Brown, Saadiqah Hasan, Sharon Danann, Dwight Lamar, Kandy Cannon, Jackie Thomas, Susan Schnur and Martha Grevatt.
Photo: Ericka Abram

Martha Grevatt, a member of the Cleveland branch of Workers World Party and the Cleveland Lucasville 5 Defense Committee, sent Hasan interview questions. The first portion of the interview was published on www.workers.org on March 29 of this year. The following excerpts are part 2 of the interview. The final installment of the interview will appear in a future issue.

WW: How did they convict you of capital murder?

Hasan: Seeing there was no physical or scientific evidence linking me to any of the crimes, the state made the scheming decision to demonize me in their diabolical pursuit to use me—their phantom ringleader and master puppeteer—as their scapegoat. Early on in their biased investigation, the state convinced the prison guards that I had ordered the murder of their fellow officer. As a result, guards immediately started fabricating things they had allegedly seen me doing. Many of their stories conflicted with one another, but it didn’t matter because this was their way of seeking revenge for the murder of their co-worker.

Siddique Abdullah Hasan

Moreover, the state convinced prisoners who had committed murders and other serious crimes that it was me they wanted to “fry” and not them. This gave certain prisoners an outlet to lie on me in order to save their own skin and the proof is in the pudding.

Take, for example, these snitchers said that I was in a meeting where a decision or vote was made to kill a guard, and that I chaired this meeting. The irony of their cock-and-bull story is the state secretly recorded this meeting and I’m not even present in this meeting. Yet the state allowed this perjured testimony to go uncorrected. As a result of their perjured testimony, two of these murderers have been released from prison and the other two will be released in a couple of years.

Another factor which contributed and sealed my conviction was that the state, during the course of the trial, repeatedly focused on my race, my religion and my Islamic attire—all to create an atmosphere of Islamophobia. Therefore, it was not a complicated task to secure a conviction in Cincinnati, before a predominantly white and Catholic jury. I do not have to remind you that Cincinnati is notorious for its racism and bigotry, especially the wholesale incarcerating of young Black men.

WW: Since the bosses typically regard multiracial unity as a threat, was this a factor in the harshness of your sentence?

Hasan: It’s really hard to say if the harshness of my sentence(s) were actually motivated by the perceived threat of multiracial unity. However, I can say with certainty that my 14 years of isolation, the harshness of my treatment and denial of my privileges, which are readily afforded to other death row prisoners, are directly related to the awe-inspiring and unprecedented multiracial solidarity displayed during and after the rebellion. The prison authorities are unrelentingly trying to shove a message of deterrence down the throats of other potential activists and revolutionaries under their jurisdiction and control. That message is: Do not try to resist the excessive and oppressive conditions in our system; otherwise, we will be vindictive in punishing you with no end in sight.

WW: How did you happen to be transferred to Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown?

Hasan: As soon as it became official that a super-max prison was going to be built in Ohio, Ohio’s former director [of the prison system] Reginald Wilkinson unilaterally decided that I would be one of the first prisoners housed at the $65 million concentration camp. True to his words, I was brought here on May 7, 1998—the fourth day of its opening.

WW: What are the conditions there? What are the grievances and is there a movement for improved conditions?

Hasan: Conditions here are both oppressive and vindictive. This is especially true when it comes to a small class of prisoners dubbed “long-termers,” which I am unduly assigned to this class. Although this group has not been in any trouble and has completed various programs, nothing we do will ever be good enough for the prison officials to reduce our long-term status. Thus, our insufficient privileges and punitive status will forever remain the same. The prison officials have made it perfectly clear that they’re following the orders of their superiors at Central Office in Columbus, Ohio.

Our complaints and grievances have internally fallen on deaf ears; therefore, relief will have to emanate from an outside judge. In fact, we are waiting on a judge’s ruling now. If a favorable ruling does not come down, then I will personally organize the people and push for massive demonstrations throughout the state of Ohio.

Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising" is available at leftbooks.com.