For Immediate Release: November 10, 2009
Contact: Suzanne Ross (917) 584-2135 • Pam Africa (215) 476-8812
International Representatives Join US Activists in Delivering to Attorney General Eric Holder Thousands of Letters Demanding a Civil Rights Investigation of the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal
New York Avenue Presbyterian Church
1313 New York Avenue
Washington, DC, 11:30 A.M.
MARCH TO JUSTICE DEPARTMENT AND PRESENTATION OF LETTERS FOLLOWS, ARRIVING AT DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE 1:30 PM
Supporters of Pennsylvania death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal will march to the US Department of Justice in Washington, DC, on November 12 to deliver thousands of petitions to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding that the department open an investigation into the multitude of violations of Abu-Jamal’s civil rights over the past 28 years. A press conference at 11:30 AM at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church will be followed by a march to the Department of Justice where the letters demanding such an investigation will be brought.
Among the speakers at the press conference will be Laura Moye, Director, Amnesty International’s Death Penalty Abolition Campaign; Steven Hawkins, Vice President, National NAACP; Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, Sr., President, Baltimore NAACP; Pam Africa, International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal; Fignolé Saint-Cyr, President of Autonomous Unions of Haiti; Berlin Coalition to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal; El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan, Washington, DC, Director of Operations, Peace and Justice Foundation; Thomas Ruffin, attorney; Joseph “Jazz” Hayden, Riverside Church Prison Ministry; Panama Alba, National Congress of Puerto Rican Rights, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, and others.
Many Muslim organizations are supporting the call for a civil rights investigation of Abu-Jamal’s case. Representatives of these groups will be present both at the press conference and the subsequent rally at the Justice Department to express support for Mumia Abu-Jamal while pointing out similarities between the due process and human rights violations in his case and those that are perpetrated daily against the Muslim political prisoners and prisoners of war.
This past July the NAACP passed an emergency resolution at its 100th anniversary convention in New York, asking Mr. Holder to conduct a civil rights investigation. “We’re going to ask Attorney General Holder to look into this,” said NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, during a broadcast of Pacifica Radio’s “Democracy Now” on July 20. “As anyone who’s followed this case for a number of years knows, similar doubts have been raised about him as were raised about Troy Davis.” Later, Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP'sWashington office, told The Final Call, “We had a meeting with the attorney general, and the subject of Mumia Abu Jamal did surface. The attorney general said he was aware of the case and would look into it and get back to us.”
Pam Africa, long-time Chair of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, has announced that, “We are not coming to the Department of Justice looking for justice. We are bringing justice to the Department of Justice!” Dr. Suzanne Ross of the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition adds, “At this critical moment in Mumia’s case, a civil rights investigation could mean the difference between life and death for Mumia. It could also open the door for his release.”
The call for a civil rights investigation follows the April 2009 U.S. Supreme Court acceptance of the Third Circuit’s decision that closed all doors for a new trial or the consideration of Abu-Jamal’s innocence. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is still considering an appeal by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office to immediately reinstate Abu-Jamal’s death sentence.
International legal bodies such as Amnesty International, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the European Parliament, and city councils and national governments around the world have argued for decades that Abu-Jamal was wrongfully convicted in a widely denounced trial and appeals process for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphiapolice officer. They point to suppressed evidence, witness intimidation and consequent witness perjury, a very specious confession, an admittedly biased judge and a long string of twisted appellate court rulings as evidence of a continuing conspiracy by the state of Pennsylvania to execute him. Additionally, and this is a critical basis for a civil rights investigation as occurred during the overturning of the conviction of Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, there is extensive evidence of consistent withholding of evidence from the defense that could have led to Mumia’s acquittal – photographs challenging the prosecution’s version of what happened on December 9, 1981, and evidence that another person other than Mumia, his brother, and Faulkner were at the crime scene at the time Office Faulkner was shot.
The march to the Justice Department will follow the press conference and is being co-sponsored by International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, National Lawyers Guild, (NYC Chapter), WESPAC, Riverside Justice Prison Ministry, Iglesia San Romero (UCC), Campaign to End the Death Penalty, International Action Center, Peace and Justice Foundation, Families United for Justice in America, Nat Turner Rebellion, Black August Planning Committee, National Jericho Movement, , and ANSWER, among others. The delivery of the petitions is expected to take place at 1:30 pm. The campaign has been endorsed by a broad range of individuals including Angela Davis, Ruby Dee, Charles Rangel, Cynthia McKinney, Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, and Tariq Ali.
In 1982 Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of murdering a Philadelphia police officer and sentenced to death. His case is one of the most contested in U.S. history. Prosecutors, the Fraternal Order of Police and their supporters, and even the judges involved, have always claimed to possess a watertight case justifying Abu-Jamal’s conviction and sentence. Yet Abu-Jamal's trial, conviction, and death sentence have prompted jurists and human rights organizations worldwide to denounce the trial and death sentence as a travesty of justice. They cite the open bias of the original judge, who was overheard to have said outside his courtroom, “I’m going to help them fry the n - - - - -“. Not only is this a strong indication of racial bias, a reality minimized by the judge who took over the case, but it clearly identified the absence of the requisite “judicial neutrality” expected of a judge. The racially skewed process of jury selection, furthermore, yielded a disproportionately white jury, the disappearance of key ballistics evidence, and police intimidation of witnesses leading to perjured statements. Amnesty International, in its 2000 report called “A Life in the Balance: The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal” stated that, “numerous aspects of this case clearly failed to meet minimum international standards safeguarding the fairness of legal proceedings” and strongly recommended a new trial. Abu-Jamal's defense team identified 29 claims of violation of his constitutional rights, but Abu-Jamal has been repeatedly denied the opportunity to have evidence of his innocence and of police and prosecutorial efforts to frame and convict him seriously considered. Abu- Jamal has always asserted his innocence and his affidavit on this is included in the press packet. Clearly Mumia Abu-Jamal’s race and his political views, as well as his widely recognized enormous talent in communicating those views, have played a key role in his being the object of a 28 year conspiracy to forever silence his voice.