[Pnews] Jalil Muntaqim - Still in Attica after 40 years

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Apr 3 10:35:46 EDT 2014

  Still in Attica after 40 years

April 3, 2014

*Jalil Muntaqim*, a former member of the Black Panther Party and Black 
Liberation Army, has spent more than 40 years behind bars after 
receiving a sentence of 25 years to life in 1971. Mara Ahmed, an 
activist, artist, documentary filmmaker and blogger 
<http://www.maraahmed.com/> based in Rochester, N.Y., recently visited 
Muntaqim at the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York.

ON FEBRUARY 18, I went to Attica, along with other activists, to visit 
Jalil Muntaqim (prisoner no. 77A4283, whose birth name was Anthony L. 
Bottom). This was my first time at a maximum-security prison. With its 
impossibly high walls and multiple turrets, it looked like a castle, 
albeit an ugly gray one, and I half expected to be intercepted by a moat.

The inside of the prison is coldly institutional, regulated, bland. The 
visiting room is large, furnished with tables and chairs, and there's an 
entire wall of vending machines. The walls are painted with dolphins and 
miscellaneous underwater scenes. I soon understood why. Many families 
visit with young children in tow, and soon, their noisy chatter began to 
reverberate throughout the carefully reinforced and supervised space we 
were in.

Jalil joined us after 15 or 20 minutes. Tall, affable, with a warm smile 
on his face and a taqiyah (Muslim skullcap) on his head, it was easy to 
fall into conversation with him. Jalil is interested in everything. He 
asked Diane about her work as a Rochester city high school teacher and 
discussed my films with me, including issues related to Islam and 
feminism and the Partition of India.

His charm and lively intelligence make it hard to imagine that he's 
spent more than 40 years of his life in prison. He was a young Black 
Panther when he was arrested in 1971. Since COINTELPRO--a secret FBI 
program aimed at sabotaging dissent and disrupting movements for 
self-determination within the U.S. from the 1950s to the 1970s--has now 
been exposed for its illegal activities, it's incredible that political 
prisoners like Jalil continue to be locked up.

Here is a summary of the case against Jalil in the words of Danish 
activist and writer Kit Aastrup 

    [Muntaqim] 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...In 2007 Muntaqim was charged in a cold
    case from 1971 known as the San Francisco 8 (SF8) 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.

Charges have been dropped against most of the SF8 on the basis of 
insufficient evidence. However, Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim remain in 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

JALIL IS no run-of-the-mill human being. He acquired a college education 
while incarcerated; in 1976, he initiated the National Prisoners 
Campaign to Petition the United Nations to recognize the existence of 
political prisoners in the U.S.; in 1997, he launched the Jericho 
Movement to demand amnesty for American political prisoners on the basis 
of international law; he has written books and maintains a blog; and 
he's quelled prison riots.

He's also involved in literacy programs and has wonderful ideas about 
vocational training in prison running parallel to community programs 
outside so that released prisoners can transition effortlessly into them 
and chances of relapse are minimized. For all these efforts at 
organizing, Jalil is transferred relentlessly from one correctional 
facility to another.

Jalil understands that we have reached a racial crossroads in America. 
Black kids are being murdered for the clothes they wear or the music 
they listen to, stop-and-frisk and racial profiling have become 
institutionalized, books like Michelle Alexander's /The New Jim Crow/ 
explain how a caste system rooted in mass incarceration has replaced 
segregation and slavery, anti-Vietnam War protesters and activists have 
revealed how they stole COINTELPRO files, and books like Betty Medsger's 
/The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI/ delineate 
the disturbing history, machinations and criminality of the FBI.

Jalil's concern is that this "spark" might ignite people's anger rather 
than become the impetus for constructive organizing. He hopes for 
liberal movements to unite and coalesce as they did during the civil 
rights era. He wants to hearken back to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 
Poor People's Campaign and forge links between the struggles against 
racism and economic inequity, between Trayvon Martin and Occupy Wall Street.

He envisions an alternative, internal judicial system capable of 
resolving disputes and interdicting where necessary, based on African 
American needs and realities. It would work in unison with the American 
judicial system, the way Jewish, Christian or Amish religious laws do 
right now.

This reminded me of something August Wilson said in an interview with 
Bill Moyers in 1988. He talked about African Americans being a "visible" 
minority and the offensive idea that they must integrate into white, 
European (in other words, mainstream) society and distance themselves 
from their own values, aesthetics and worldview in order to be successful.

He gave the example of Asian Americans, whose culture is not only 
accepted but admired. He mentioned Passover and how it reminds Jews of 
their history of slavery. There is a need for a Black Passover and for a 
celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation. By revisiting and keeping 
alive their common past, African Americans can build a common future.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

JALIL HAS been up for parole countless times. He is always refused. He 
is no threat to society. On the contrary, he would be a valuable leader 
and mentor for the community at large. He believes in parole reform and 
is campaigning to focus on "risk to society" rather than "nature of 
crime" (which is a static and therefore useless consideration). The 
composition of the parole board needs to change as well. It should 
represent a spectrum of communities in which prisoners have their roots, 
not just law enforcement.

Jalil believes in rehabilitation and redemption, not retribution and 
punishment. He describes himself as a hopeless optimist, and in the 
presence of this charismatic man, one of the longest held political 
prisoners in the world, it's impossible to be otherwise.

His parole hearing is coming up again in June 2014. It's time to end 
this horrendous injustice and free Jalil Muntaqim. It's heartening that 
ex-Black Panther Marshall "Eddie" Conway was released from prison this 
month, after almost 44 years behind bars. He too was accused of killing 
a police officer under COINTELPRO. It's imperative to keep the pressure 
on and free all American political prisoners.

/For more information about Jalil, including his blog, got to 
www.FreeJalil.com <http://www.freejalil.com/>/.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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