[Ppnews] Political prisoners struggle for justice

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 12 11:41:27 EDT 2009

Political prisoners struggle for justice
By Saeed Shabazz

Staff Writer
Updated Mar 12, 2009, 11:19 am

(FinalCall.com) - Defenders of Native American 
activist Leonard Peltier, 64, are turning their 
attention to President Barack Obama hoping that 
the new administration will move the issue of his 
incarceration to the front burner.

Supporters of Native American activist Leonard 
Peltier hope that the Obama administration will do justice in his case.

Supporters from around the nation gathered Feb. 6 
in Denver, Colo., to commemorate the 33rd 
anniversary of Mr. Peltier’s 1977 conviction in 
the murder of two FBI agents during a shootout on 
a South Dakota Indian reservation.

Over the years Mr. Peltier has garnered worldwide 
support from political leaders, organizations 
such as Amnesty International, the Dalai Lama and 
various celebrities. Observers say the underlying 
themes of whether he received a fair trial­and 
acknowledgement of historical abuses against 
Native Americans, huge poverty on reservations, 
horrifying suicide rates and high unemployment­fuel Mr. Peltier’s support base.

David Hill, 65, of Oklahoma, national coordinator 
for the Leonard Peltier Defense-Offense Committee 
joined the American Indian Movement with Mr. 
Peltier in the 1970s. He explained to The Final 
Call that Mr. Peltier’s supporters are turning to 
President Obama for executive clemency.

“We believe now more than ever in Leonard’s 
innocence and he has been a model prisoner. So 
why not free him?” Mr. Hill asked.

Former 2008 Green Party presidential candidate 
Cynthia McKinney in a letter to President Obama 
said, pardoning Mr. Peltier “is but a down 
payment on the path of justice and reconciliation 
our country so sorely needs. Peltier should be 
released. He has become a global symbol of 
injustice and prison abuse; a man who was never 
given a fair trial,” Ms. McKinney stated in her letter.

Amnesty International acknowledged Mr. Peltier’s 
status as a political prisoner in actions before 
the United Nations in 1992 and in a statement 
commemorating the 33rd anniversary of his 
incarceration noted that they recognize a retrial 
is no longer a feasible option. “Leonard Peltier 
should be irrevocably and unconditionally 
released,” Amnesty International said.

Attorney Michael Kuzma of Buffalo, N.Y., has 
become Mr. Peltier’s lead counsel and he informed 
The Final Call that he just visited his client at 
the Lewisburg Federal Facility on Feb. 21. “He is 
in good spirits, and he wants to thank all of his 
supporters for standing with him during those 
difficult days when he had been transferred out 
of Lewisburg to the Canaan facility. He wants to 
get support for a transfer closer to his South 
Dakota home, where he believes the atmosphere 
would be more conducive to possible parole after 
his December hearing,” Mr. Kuzma said.

Mr. Kuzma also said supporters believe they have 
a friendly ear in the White House now.

President Obama on Feb. 10 appointed Jodi 
Archambault Gillette, a member of the Sioux 
Nation, as deputy associate director of the 
Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, which was 
held by a non-Native American during the days of the Bush administration.

First lady Michelle Obama made an historical 
visit to the Interior Dept. on Feb 10, saying, 
“Barack has pledged to honor the unique 
government to government relationship between 
tribes and the federal government.”

But developments have also occurred with other 
political prisoners. News concerning Mumia Abu 
Jamal’s case came in an e-mail message from his 
San Francisco-based attorney, Robert R. Bryan. 
“On Feb. 4, the U.S. Supreme Court docketed and 
accepted for filing the ‘Petition for Writ of 
Certiorari’ that had been submitted on Dec. 19, 2008,” Mr. Bryan said.

Mr. Abu Jamal was sent to death row in 1983 for 
the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer 
during a traffic stop. Mr. Abu Jamal was well 
known as an activist with the Black Panther Party 
and for his hard-hitting investigative community journalism.

“The central issue in this case is racism in jury 
selection. The prosecutor systematically removed 
people from sitting on the trial jury because of 
the color of their skin,” said Mr. Bryan.

Mr. Bryan warned that the city prosecutor was 
attempting to overturn the ruling by the Third 
Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that the 
death penalty ruling was incorrect and ordered a 
new trial on the question of the death sentence. 
The attorney said that he had filed a brief of 
opposition with the Supreme Court on Feb. 13.

“Now what occurs in the Supreme Court will 
determine whether Mumia will have a new trial or die,” Mr. Bryan stressed.

Another important hearing concerning a political 
prisoner will take place March 3 before the Fifth 
Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Albert 
Woodfox, one of the Angola 3 inmates in 
Louisiana. Herman Wallace, Robert King and Mr. 
Woodfox were convicted of killing a prison guard 
in 1973 at the 18,000 acre former slave 
plantation known as Angola state prison. The men 
were held for 36 years in solitary confinement 
and in 2001, Mr. King was freed. The three had 
become outspoken critics of the conditions at 
Angola, which began to receive attention from 
Black Louisiana politicians and prison activists. 
In July 2008, a federal judge over turned Mr. 
Woodfox’s conviction after a state judicial 
magistrate ruled his trial was unfair due to 
inadequate legal representation, prosecutorial 
misconduct, suppression of exculpatory evidence 
and racial discrimination in the grand jury selection process.

Each side will argue on March 3 for 20 minutes 
after which the court could take from one to six 
months to render a decision. If the jurists 
uphold the ruling, the state has 120 days to 
decide to re-try Mr. Woodfox or release him, according to his supporters.

The trials and tribulations of Imam Jamil 
Abdullah Al-Amin continue and Karimah Al-Amin, 
his attorney and wife, reported that towards the 
end of 2008 her husband was transferred from a 
Georgia state prison to a supermax facility in 
Florence, Colo. “This stems from a March 1990 
agreement between Georgia and the federal prison 
system that people they cannot handle could be 
sent to a federal facility, and Georgia would pay 
for it,” Ms. Al-Amin explained to The Final Call.

She said the imam was recently “stripped searched 
and placed into a cell with no bed, no shower and 
no control over the lights. They have also taken 
his Qur’an,” Ms. Al-Amin said. “When he asked a 
guard when he could make a phone call, the guard told him in 90 days.”

Imam Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, was 
a founder of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating 
Committee (SNCC). He was convicted in 2002 of 
killing a Georgia sheriff’s deputy and wounding 
another while they attempted to serve a warrant for a traffic ticket.

“The continued harassment of the imam is a 
continuation of the government’s COINTEL 
program,” Ms. Al-Amin said. The government is 
also angry that he continues to preach Islam 
whenever he enters the prison population, she 
said. “It’s just the way they have treated him 
over the past 40 years,” Ms. Al-Amin said.

In 2001, neo-conservative columnist, Daniel Pipes 
wrote concerning the imam: “Even as he sits in a 
Georgia jail, the Washington-based American 
Muslim Council hails him as a leader in the American Muslim community.”

To support Imam Al-Amin’s release from solitary 
confinement please write: Warden Ron Wiley, USP 
Florence ADMAX, U.S. Penitentiary, P.O. Box 8500, 
Florence, Colo. 81226. The imam’s prison ID number is 99974-555.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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