[Pnews] Jaan Laaman released after 37 years

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jul 1 12:18:57 EDT 2021

workers.org <https://www.workers.org/2021/07/57297/> Jaan Laaman released
after 37 years By Ted Kelly <https://www.workers.org/author/ted-kelly/>
posted on July 1, 2021

Jaan Laaman free at last!
Credit: Sonja Wilde-de Vries

Radical political activist Jaan Laaman of the Ohio 7 was released from
McCreary federal prison after 37 years in U.S. custody. He was arrested in
1984 and charged with “seditious conspiracy,” along with other members of
the United Freedom Front.

The UFF was originally known as the Sam Melville/Jonathan Jackson Unit,
named after two revolutionary activists who were assassinated by the U.S.
government. Jonathan Jackson, younger brother of George Jackson, was killed
during an operation to free political prisoners on trial. Melville was a
militant radical and cellmate of Laaman’s at Attica and a leader of the
1971 uprising at that prison. Melville was murdered by New York State
police during the Attica rebellion.

Laaman was born in a German refugee camp to Estonian parents in 1948. An
ally of the Young Lords, the Black Panthers and the anti-apartheid movement
before his arrest, Laaman became an activist for the rights of prisoners to
have access to reading materials and higher education. A New Hampshire
Supreme Court ruling, Laaman v. Warden New Hampshire State Prison, centered
on the care of mentally ill prisoners. Part of the agreement involved
separate therapeutic housing for prisoners with mental illness. According
to Prison Legal News, “Any violation of the agreement was to be enforced
via actions in the state courts.” (https://tinyurl.com/7vm6urb8)

Laaman is the last of the Ohio 7 to be freed from prison. Tom Manning, the
only other remaining member, died in prison July 29, 2019, just 14 months
before his scheduled release. Upon the death of co-defendant Richard
Williams in October 2011, Laaman wrote, “For me personally, I have no
dearer friend or closer comrade than Richard. . . . From construction sites
to picket lines and yes, battle lines too, I feel proud and honored to have
shared these with you, my comrade, my brother, my friend.”

While at the U.S. Penitentiary in Tucson, Ariz., Laaman faced heavy
censorship, repression and repeated retaliation for his political writing.
He was placed in solitary confinement in 2017. (workers.org/2017/05/31476/

In 2016, Laaman wrote that “cops are rarely charged with wrongdoing.”

He continued: “These are the indisputable realities in early 21st century
life in the U.S. If we look back historically, we can see even more blatant
and vicious racist abuses and practices in all areas of life directed
against all people of color. This began with the earliest European contact
with and conquest of the Americas. Modern countries in North, Central and
South America originated with genocide, land theft, enslavement of
Indigenous peoples and the African slave trade.

“Decades of community activism and revolutionary organizing across the U.S.
have made clear that no matter what the specifics of the struggle, unity is
always necessary to sustain the effort and to win. As Mumia Abu-Jamal has
famously stated, ‘When we fight, we win.’ The main weapon used against
popular struggle is to divide us based on racism, playing to the lies of
white supremacist ideology.

“Unity is our strength. Rejecting racism is necessary for unity. Racism
will continue to be used against us until we expose it and reject it for
the lies and fabrications that it is.”

Moments after walking out of McCreary Federal Prison in Kentucky, Laaman
said, “Black Lives mattered then, and Black lives matter now.”

Welcome home, comrade Jaan Laaman!

Free Mumia! Free all political prisoners!
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