•  HOME 
  •  BOOKS 
  •  WWP 
  •  DONATE 
  • Loading

Follow workers.org on
Twitter Facebook iGoogle

Anti-torture conference denounces U.S., Zionist, Turkish prisons

Published Jan 15, 2007 10:48 AM

Organizations and activists from over 30 countries participated in the Fifth International Symposium Against Isolation in Athens, Greece, Dec. 15-18, declaring anti-imperialist unity in supporting political prisoners around the world. Over the four-day symposium, the politics of isolation, secret detention and torture were graphically exposed by dozens of panelists, some of whom had been imprisoned themselves or were activists or lawyers working on behalf of political prisoners.

The symposium gave special attention to the 10,000 people from Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt who are in Zionist prisons as well as to those in the U.S.-run prisons of Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and Bagram, and those in Turkish prisons.

Participants declared strong support for U.S. political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, the Cuban Five and the MOVE 9, greeting messages from Mumia as well as from activists on death row in Texas with great applause.

Pam Africa, representing the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, told of Mumia’s political strength despite his illegal incarceration for decades. Ralf Minkenberg from Germany, with the Solidarity Committee with the Cuban Five—”Basta Ya”—spoke of worldwide support for these Cuban heroes, who were truly fighting terrorism.

Melek Akgun, representing TAYAD, a Turkish association of prisoners’ families, gave a heart-wrenching account on conditions of isolation in Turkish prisons. Her son, a political prisoner, has been imprisoned for five years. She said that the prison isolation has psychologically disabled her son.

To call attention to these conditions of isolation, prisoners in Turkey have employed the tactic of the “Death Fast.” Some 122 prisoners have died in the fast so far and over 600 are left with disabilities. Right now three people, including Behic Asci, a lawyer for some of the prisoners, have been fasting for over 250 days and are in critical condition.

First Secretary of the Cuban Embassy in Greece José Cala and First Secretary of the Venezuelan Embassy in Greece Porfirio Pestana both addressed the symposium. Cala spoke on the terrorist attacks against his island by U.S. imperialism since 1959 as well as the economic blockade against the Cuban people. He urged support for the Cuban Five, known in Cuba as the “Five Heroes.” Cala brought a recent film about the Five that was screened.

A Peoples Video Network film, “Shaka Sankofa: The World’s Greatest Legal Lynching,” was shown. Many of the international participants were surprised by the overt racism and injustice at the core of the U.S. criminal justice system. They greeted with cheers scenes of protesters in Austin and Huntsville, Texas, trying to stop Sankofa’s execution.

One of the panels dealt with Washington’s so-called war on terrorism and the future of social and political rights. Many speakers told of anti-terror laws being put on the books in their country. In Belgium, the state can condemn a person just for belonging to an organization or association. Those detained have their human rights violated and torture is used against them. The symposium issued a call for support for defendants in upcoming trials in Belgium and Denmark.

The right to resist

One panel focused on the resistance to global wars of imperialism and the failure of the U.S.’s strategy in the Middle East. Dr. Hisham Bustani of the Popular Arab Resistance Alliance spoke of the recent U.S. and Israeli failure in Lebanon. “Imperialism doesn’t know what to do,” he said, “so they keep changing plans. The U.S. is weak now and the solution for the Arab masses is armed resistance. We must defend ourselves when we are called terrorists. WE are not the terrorists! We are the resistance and we have the right to defend ourselves against U.S. imperialism.”

A member of the Egyptian Socialist Party spoke on supporting the resistance in the Arab world. “The victory of the resistance will mean that the U.S. control of capital and human resources will change. The poor in the U.S. must understand that this is in their interest,” she said. “We hear the debate among the anti-war movement—armed resistance or peaceful resistance. It is the right of our people to use arms against the greatest imperialist power in the world. All oppressed people have the right to choose our path to defeat imperialism,” she stated.

Boris, a young activist from Bulgaria, assured all that the struggle in Eastern Europe did not stop with the fall of socialism. His organization, the 23rd of September Resistance Movement, supports worldwide communism and is fighting against the restoration of capitalism in Bulgaria and Eastern Europe.

One former political prisoner, Alexander Moumbaris, told of leaving home in Europe to travel to South Africa to fight apartheid. He became a part of the armed wing of the African National Congress, Umkhonto we Sizwe, and was captured and imprisoned for 12 years. He finally escaped in 1979 and fled to France where he still lives. “After we won against anti-terror laws in South Africa, it is hard to see history repeating itself today. But, the struggle continues,” he said.

From support for the resistance in Iraq to the Zapatistas in Mexico to the FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) to those fighting in the Philippines and Palestine, revolutionary international solidarity against imperialism seemed the unifying theme of the symposium. Many prisoners around the world fasted during the symposium to show their solidarity.

The symposium ended with the international delegations attending a memorial meeting for the revolutionaries who have fallen in the battle against isolation and in resistance to imperialist wars, gathering in an institution named EAT-ESA, which the gendarmerie had used as a torture center in the time of the Greek junta (1967-1974) and which is now a museum. Representatives of EAT-ESA, who took part and had themselves been tortured, told the delegations about those times. A wreath of red carnations was laid at the memorial for the fallen.

Gloria Rubac represented the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement at the symposium.