Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Dec. 25, 1997
issue of Workers World newspaper

Movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal grows

By Leslie Feinberg

The battle to free revolutionary journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal from Pennsylvania’s death row continues to be fought on many fronts.

The powerful impact of the People’s International Tribunal for Justice for Mumia, which took place Dec. 6 in Philadelphia, is still reverberating.

Over 1,500 people plus 23 judges from around the world heard powerful testimony at the tribunal. On that day, the tables were turned.

The oppressed sat in judgment of the crimes of their oppressors: Pennsylvania’s governor, Supreme Court and prisons; Philadelphia’s mayor, district attorney and police; U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and "hanging Judge" Albert Sabo.

The judges concluded with a call for a "thorough, independent, international and impartial judicial investigation, with full subpoena powers" into police abuse, FBI/COINTELPRO surveillance, official involvement in the MOVE bombing, and officials abusing Mumia’s human rights.

On Dec. 10—officially recognized internationally as Human Rights Day—a seven-member delegation from the tribunal presented the judges’ findings to Dr. Purificacion Quisumbing, director of the New York office of the United Nations high commissioner for human rights.

Delegation members included Roger Wareham, one of several lawyers who presented evidence at the tribunal; journalists Gamal Nkrumah, son of Kwame Nkrumah, and Julia Wright, both of whom served as tribunal judges; and Ramona Africa, a spokesperson for the MOVE organization.

Immediately after the tribunal, its findings had been sent to Internet mailing lists and Usenet groups. News releases were faxed to over 200 media outlets. And plans for more international outreach are in the works.

‘Into the streets!’

While the tribunal was under way in Philadelphia, activists took to the streets in other cities Dec. 6 to demand freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Thousands marched and rallied in San Francisco. In Vancouver, Canada, 200 protesters took over downtown streets, chanting, "Off the sidewalks and into the streets, this racist system can be beat!’ Demonstrators delivered a letter of protest to the U.S. Consulate.

The letter read in part: "This brave freedom fighter has languished in Pennsylvania’s prisons for 15 years as a result of your government’s racist, McCarthyist, undemocratic judicial system, and the three-decade-long FBI campaign to eliminate radical Black leaders.

"We are determined to continue to expose and denounce the actions of the U.S. government, and the state of Pennsylvania and its cops. We will not relent. Canadian labor, people of color, women, First Nations, youth, lesbians, gays, leftists, anti-fascist activists, and immigrants will remember your actions."

The rising tide of the demand to free Abu-Jamal has moved Amnesty International to take up his case. The Philadelphia Bar Association has called for a moratorium on capital punishment.

On Dec. 14, Abu-Jamal was declared the recipient of the 1997 Humanist of the Year Award in New York.

Freedom of speech?

On Dec. 8, a panel of three federal appeals judges heard arguments from prison officials about why they open Abu-Jamal’s mail from his lawyers and ban him from freelance writing.

Amy Zapp, a senior deputy attorney general representing the Department of Corrections, argued that prison authorities had security in mind. But even the judges apparently had a hard time swallowing the explanations.

Judge Richard L. Nygaard asked why officials not only opened mail sent to Abu-Jamal from his lawyers, but photocopied the correspondence and passed it along to the governor’s office.

Nygaard noted that the letters discuss defense strategy. "I was appalled that this could leak out to the very people who could one day be sitting across the table from [Abu-Jamal] at some further proceeding," he said.

The hearing also took up Abu-Jamal’s alleged prison-code violation: publishing a book and freelance articles. The judges questioned whether prison officials violated Abu-Jamal’s right to free speech.

"What state interest is being served by this rule?" asked Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Part of Zapp’s answer revealed the real reason the state has tried to silence this revolutionary writer. Allowing Abu-Jamal’s work to be published, Zapp said, would "allow him to form a power base."

The momentum of the demand to free Mumia Abu-Jamal proves that he already has a wide base of support. The widening movement cannot be silenced.

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: [email protected]
Subscribe [email protected]
Support independent news