[Ppnews] A visit with political prisoner Jalil Muntaqim

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Dec 12 07:44:46 EST 2009

A visit with political prisoner Jalil Muntaqim

By Kit Aastrup
Auburn, N.Y.
Published Dec 11, 2009 11:00 PM

Visiting a prisoner is not easy, for either a 
family member or a political activist. Often the 
only way is to take a special bus round trip to 
one of the many prisons located, like Auburn, in 
a rural setting. A prison bus from New York City 
to Auburn takes six hours each way and leaves in 
the middle of the night from Lexington Avenue and 
125th Street for a 9 a.m. visit.

Jalil Muntaqim

After corresponding with Jalil Muntaqim for more 
than four years, it was exciting to finally meet 
him this fall. Happily, he turned out to be 
exactly the same person as he is in his letters.

Muntaqim, aka Anthony Bottom, is one of the 
longest-held political prisoners. He has been 
incarcerated for 38 years. He was only 19 years 
old and a member of the Black Panther Party when 
he was sent to prison in 1971 on conspiracy 
charges following the killing of a police 
officer, allegedly in retaliation for the murder 
of Black political prisoner George Jackson.

Muntaqim was targeted by COINTELPRO, an 
unconstitutional and clandestine FBI operation 
that was set up to destroy political 
organizations, especially those from the 
oppressed communities. In 1975 Muntaqim was 
wrongly convicted of killing two police officers 
in New York City, although there was no physical 
evidence against him and two juries failed to 
convict him before the State found one that did.

Muntaqim, who received a sentence of 25 years to 
life, has always maintained his innocence. While 
in prison he has managed to obtain two bachelor 
degrees, one in sociology and one in psychology. 
He was refused permission to pursue a master’s degree in public health.

Throughout his many years in prison he has taught 
a poetry class, participated in a sit-down 
strike, and was one of the co-founders of the 
Jericho Amnesty Movement, an organization for 
political prisoners in the United States, 
initiated by the Jericho March in 1998.

The San Francisco 8

In 2007 Muntaqim was charged in a cold case from 
1971 known as the San Francisco 8 case, and he 
was transferred from Auburn Correctional Facility 
in New York to San Francisco County Jail. This 
case was originally dropped in 1975 because it 
was based on confessions extracted by torture.

At the end of July, two of the SF8, Herman Bell 
and Muntaqim, were sentenced to probation and 
time served, after Bell agreed to plead to 
voluntary manslaughter and Muntaqim reluctantly 
pleaded no contest to conspiracy to voluntary 
manslaughter. All charges were then dropped 
against Richard Brown, Hank Jones, Harold Taylor 
and Ray Boudreaux, with the prosecution admitting 
it had “insufficient evidence.”

Charges were dropped against Richard O’Neal last 
year. Only Francisco Torres still faces charges; he maintains his innocence.

Now Muntaqim is back in Auburn. He had been 
denied parole four times before, the last time in 
2006. He failed to see the parole board in 2008 
due to his transfer to the state of California in 
the SF8 case. He was denied parole for the fifth 
time in November and won’t be up for parole again until June 2010.

Punishment not limited to incarceration

How can a prisoner keep sane with nonstop daily 
humiliations? The penalty of prison is not 
limited to incarceration. It takes away your 
whole life. It penalizes your family, your spouse 
or partner, and your children. The routine is 
aimed to break down your self-esteem and your 
self-confidence. Solitary confinement can break nearly anyone.

When first incarcerated, Muntaqim was a 
19-year-old with a pregnant girlfriend. He now 
has a 37-year-old daughter, grandchildren and 
even a great-grandchild. He has educated himself. 
He wants a life­with a job, with family and 
friends­a modest ambition but something he has not achieved so far.

He is relaxed and humorous, a little too serious 
maybe until you get to know him, but when a smile 
finally lights up his face, he is so likable. 
That may explain why he has received marriage proposals-which he has declined.

The United States has by far the largest number 
of prisoners in the world. African-American males 
are one-tenth of the world’s prison population. 
Targeted by COINTELPRO and most likely convicted 
with fabricated evidence, hundreds of political 
activists have been punished for their political 
activity with a lifetime of imprisonment. In the 
deepest dungeons of the United States they spend 
their lives in small prison cells, unnoticed by 
and anonymous to the young generation and not 
often enough remembered as comrades in the 
struggle by those still active in the progressive movement.

Muntaqim is one of those hundreds. He deserves to 
be remembered and honored. Free all U.S. political prisoners!

For more information on Muntaqim’s case, visit 
www.freedomarchives.org and www.freethesf8.org.

Aastrup, a Danish political activist and writer 
for the newspaper Arbejderen (The Worker), 
follows closely the issues of political prisoners.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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