Statement of the Internationalist Group
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!
Around the world, the case of radical black journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal has come to symbolize the fight against the racist death penalty in the United States. Jamal has been an eloquent fighter for black freedom from his days as Minister of Information of the Philadelphia Black Panther Party in the 1960s and his courageous defense of the Philly MOVE organization beginning in the 1970s. That is why for the past 15 years Mumia has sat on Pennsylvania's Death Row.
In recent weeks, the state of Pennsylvania has escalated its repressive measures against Jamal in prison as they pursue their drive to kill this courageous fighter for the oppressed. Opponents of the racist death penalty must rally to save the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
A decade and a half ago, Mumia was framed up for the murder of a Philadelphia policeman and sentenced to die in a mockery of a trial presided over by hanging judge Albert Sabo, who has ordered the execution of more men than any other sitting judge in the country. In 1995, Sabo came back from retirement to continue his persecution of Jamal, denying Mumia's appeal for a new trial. Last October, Sabo dismissed new evidence in Mumia's favor from eyewitness Veronica Jones. Jones testified that she was strongarmed into changing her testimony at Jamal's 1982 trial.
In December 1996, Jamal's lawyers submitted a motion to overturn Sabo's latest ruling. They cited the decision of a federal judge in Pittsburgh who ruled that Pennsylvania prison authorities had violated Mumia's constitutional rights, in particular his right to confidential communication with his attorney. In response to this and the publication of Jamal's second book, Death Blossoms, his jailers stepped up the vendetta against him. The following letter was sent by the Internationalist Group in protest against the mounting persecution of Jamal.
March 3, 1997Acting Superintendent Varner State Correctional Institution at Greene 1030 E. Roy Furman Highway Waynesburg, PA 153770 Martin Horn Commissioner of Corrections Department of Corrections PO Box 598 Camp Hill, Pa 17001-0598
We vigorously protest the escalating series of attacks on the rights of death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal and his defenders. These ominous new attacks come as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court appears to be nearing a decision in Jamal's appeal of his 1982 frame-up conviction.
These actions are the revenge of the prison authorities in response to a ruling last December by a federal judge in Pittsburgh that prison officials had violated Jamal's constitutional rights by opening and reading the mail from his attorneys--at the very moment the Pennsylvania governor was preparing to sign the death warrant against him. Jamal had brought the 1995 civil suit against a "gag rule" under which prison authorities blocked his access to media interviews after the publication of his book Live from Death Row, and obstructed his access to legal counsel.
But now this is happening again. Recently, prison authorities at SCI Greene handed Mumia a letter on legal matters from his attorney, Leonard Weinglass, with the envelope torn open and the words "cop killer" written across the front. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh attorney Jere Krakoff, who handled the successful 1995 civil suit against the prison system, was barred from visiting Jamal. Once again, the actions come as Jamal has released a new book, Death Blossoms, published by Plough Publishing House of the Bruderhof community. Recently, Chris Zimmerman, a member of the Bruderhof community and the Pennsylvania Prison Society, was seized and thrown out of the prison following a visit, and has now been permanently barred from the Pennsylvania Prison System.
In another incident, Mumia Abu-Jamal was ordered by prison authorities to cut his hair and given ten days to comply. Jamal has every right to wear his hair in "dreadlocks" for religiousreasons, just as other prisoners wear religious hair coverings. The government has long tried to intimidate Jamal in this manner. In 1985, after the bombing of the MOVE house in Philadelphia, Mumia and imprisoned MOVE members were ordered to cut their hair. They refused and Mumia was thrown into solitary confinement until 1992.
These actions come as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on February 3 refused to accept Jamal's "Supplementary Reply Brief" refuting the government's lies and fabrications aboutVeronica Jones' testimony in court last October. This key eyewitness came forward to reaffirm her original statements to the police, which prove that Mumia could not have committed the murder for which he is being framed. Jones also exposed how the police had coerced her to change her testimony in order to frame Mumia.
It is clear that at this crucial moment, prison authorities are again attempting to attempt to seal off Jamal's access to his legal team, the media, and those engaged in the fight against the racist death penalty around the world. We demand in the strongest terms that these sinister measures against Jamal be immediately stopped, that he be granted immediate and full access to his legal team and his defenders.
Pennsylvania prison authorities evidently think that they can get away with anything in the darkness of their dungeons. But the eyes of the world are on you. Millions around the world have denounced your barbaric actions. We join in demanding: Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! Abolish the racist death penalty!
The Internationalist Group
Since this letter was sent, on March 10 a Philadelphia woman, Patricia Jenkins, stated that she had been offered $150 by the police to make up a story that she saw Jamal shoot the policeman. In the multiple investigations of corruption and frame-ups by the Philadelphia police, Jenkins' testimony has been instrumental in sending several cops to jail and freeing a man wrongly convicted of murder. Mumia's lawyers filed a motion to add Ms. Jenkins' testimony to the record.
The Pennsylvania supreme court, however, has refused to hear oral arguments in Mumia's case. In addition, it has allowed prosecutors to file additional papers while denying this right to Jamal's lawyers. These ominous steps are aimed at keeping a lid of silence on Jamal's appeal as the court hides behind closed doors. Opponents of the death penalty must have no illusions in the capitalist courts, which are part of a system of racist injustice extending from the killer cops on the streets to the courts, the Congress and the White House. Mumia has been framed up and railroaded from the outset.
Mass mobilizations around the world stayed the executioner's hand in the summer of 1995. Governor Casey is on record saying he will sign another death warrant if the Pennsylvania supreme court rules against Jamal's appeal. Mumia's defenders must be vigilant, as a decision could come at any moment. Bring out the power of labor and all defenders of democratic rights to demand that Mumia Abu-Jamal be immediately freed! Abolish the racist death penalty!
* * * * *
Contributions to aid Mumia's legal defense should be made payable to the Bill of Rights Foundation, earmarked "Mumia Abu-Jamal Legal Defense," and sent to the committee to Save Mumia Abu-Jamal, 163 Amsterdam Avenue, No. 115, New York, NY 10023-5001.