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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
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
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
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
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
Gloria Rubac represented the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement at the
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