[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
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.
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 masters 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 ONeal 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 wont 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 worlds 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 Muntaqims 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.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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