Death penalty & the case of Abu-Jamal
EU asked to address political prisoner’s plight
International struggle to free Mumia Abu-Jamal
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire,
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Published Oct 17, 2010 10:55 PM
A critical hearing is scheduled Nov. 9 in the nearly three-decade-old case of journalist and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who sits on death row in Pennsylvania. Mumia was severely wounded and arrested on Dec. 9, 1981, in Philadelphia and was later charged, tried and convicted of the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner.
After a grossly unjust prosecution was carried out in 1982, Mumia, a former Black Panther Party leader and MOVE organization supporter, was given the death penalty. Although Mumia’s death sentence was subsequently overturned, the prosecution has repeatedly attempted to reinstate the penalty and carry out his execution.
A Jan. 19 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the 2001 and 2008 decisions that rescinded the death penalty in Abu-Jamal’s case. There is an ongoing campaign by law enforcement agencies across the country to pressure the courts into carrying out Mumia’s execution.
An international defense campaign for both Abu-Jamal’s freedom and the elimination of the U.S. death penalty has grown since the early 1980s. The International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, MOVE and other organizations have been consistent over the years in fighting not only to save the life of this award-winning writer and hero to millions around the globe, but to raise the profile of other political prisoners incarcerated in the U.S.
Two death warrants were signed for Mumia: one in 1995 and another in 1999. Both warrants were stayed by the courts after campaigns to save Mumia’s life mobilized people from all over the U.S. and the world.
A key element in building massive support was the role played by activists, journalists, trade unionists, intellectuals and political officials in Western Europe, Africa, Japan and other parts of the globe.
Leading figures such as former South African President Nelson Mandela and his ruling African National Congress, along with former Archbishop Desmond Tutu, demanded that the scheduled execution be stopped. These developments took place in the aftermath of the defeat of the racist apartheid systems in South Africa and Namibia, in which people in the U.S. and all over the world had participated.
Mumia’s articles, interviews and books have been published in numerous countries and have served to win further support for his release as well as the abolition of the U.S. death penalty, which has for more than a century been implemented in a racist and class-oriented manner. In Mumia’s case, the fact that he had been a leading member of the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia was used during the penalty phase of his trial to place him on death row.
European Union discusses Mumia’s case
The death penalty in the U.S. has gained attention in recent weeks due to the execution of two mentally disabled inmates: Teresa Lewis of Virginia and Holly Wood of Alabama. At present 35 states in the U.S. still have the death penalty, although four have not carried out any executions since 1976, when the practice was reinstituted after it was overturned in 1972.
The Obama administration is not opposed to the death penalty and has not spoken out about the executions in Alabama and Virginia.
The European Union foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton was recently urged to raise the U.S. death penalty, along with the plight of Abu-Jamal. In a European parliamentary debate on Oct. 6, Danish Member of European Parliament Soren Sondergaard stated that he “deplored” the execution of defenseless inmates, including Abu-Jamal.
Sondergaard noted: “The death penalty itself is a crime. But it is often more than that; waiting on death row in miserable conditions for years is torture. Capital punishment is also a form of terror, used to frighten people from resisting oppression and dictatorship.
“African-American journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal — the voice of the voiceless — is a key symbol of struggle against the death penalty. For nearly 30 years he has sat on death row, convicted in a trial notable for its errors and racism. High representative Ashton should raise the case with U.S. authorities — in the fight against the death penalty there is no room for double standards. In the fight against the death penalty there applies only one standard: unconditional rejection.” (The Parliament, Oct. 7)
The European Parliament passed a resolution Oct. 2 opposing the executions of both Mumia Abu-Jamal and Troy Davis of Georgia. Davis, who has also won international support, remains on death row for a crime he did not commit.
German Left Party delegate Sabine Loesing was pleased that the resolution passed with broad support. She said she would make sure that adequate pressure was placed on Ashton’s office to raise this issue during meetings with the Obama administration. (www.sabine-loesing.de, Oct. 9)
The European Parliament Condemns the Death Penalty, Expresses Concerns Over Mumia Abu-Jamal
Tuesday 12 October 2010, www.truth-out.org
by: Victor Grossman |
Berlin - What do the USA, China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and North Korea have in common?
The answer may surprise you.
The European Parliament answered this question on October 2nd with passage of a resolution singling out that seemingly disparate list for criticism.
The embarrassing common thread among these six countries: an obsession with putting lots of people to death. The US, its key oil ally Saudi Arabia, its major trading partner China, its targeted enemies of Iran and North Korea, and its puppet ally Iraq all endorse the barbaric state-sanctioned practice of the death penalty, and lead the world in applying that terrible and irreversable sanction.
In a long, detailed EU Parliament resolution, approved almost unanimously by 574 members (only 25 opposed and 39 abstained), the members from all over Europe named people languishing on death rows and threatened with execution in several countries.
That EU resolution specifically highlighted two American death row inmates: Mumia Abu-Jamal in Pennsylvania and Troy Davis in Georgia. Both of these black men were convicted of killing white police officers in trials marred by ineffective defense and gross misconduct by police and prosecutors. The twin defects of ineffectiveness and misconduct are a common feature in many of the three-thousand-plus persons on death rows across America, and especially in the nearly 140 cases that have been overturned thanks to DNA testing or other belatedly discovered proof of innocence.
In the Abu-Jamal and Davis cases, federal and state appeals courts in America have dismissed compelling new evidence of innocence and documented legal improprieties violating the constitutional rights of these two inmates.
In the Davis case, a federal judge in June 2010 rejected professions from four persons who said they lied during Davis’ 1991 trial and also rejected testimony from three witnesses who named the real killer, including one witness who testified to seeing the real killer shoot the policeman.
Both Abu-Jamal and Davis has consistently maintained their innocence.
True, as this EU resolution pointed out, the USA cannot match China, which killed about 5000 inmates last year, but it is was still near the top behind Iran, with 402, Iraq at least 77 and Saudi Arabia with at least 69. In the USA the number executed was 52. The EU delegates also voiced regret at the recent executions of Holly Wood in Alabama and Teresa Lewis in Virginia despite both women being mentally retarded.
It was noted that 154 countries have abolished the death penalty completely or almost completely (with occasional exceptions such as for wartime treason). In Europe only Belarus has failed to do so, while the new constitution of far-off Kyrgyzstan just joined the ranks of those countries which generally agree, as the resolution points out, that “the death penalty is the ultimate cruel and inhuman and degrading punishment, which violates the right to life as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, and “detention conditions created by the death penalty decision amount to torture that is unacceptable to states respecting human rights.”
The EU Parliament resolution reports that “various studies have shown that the death penalty has no effect on trends in violent crime…whereas evidence shows that the death penalty affects first and foremost underprivileged people.”
That conclusion in the EU resolution concerning the class nature of the death penalty mirrors findings of a study on death penalty practices in the USA released in April 1932. This study by then noted statistician Dr. Frederick Hoffman documented how capital punishment was “enforced chiefly against Negroes, aliens and the poor, while the rich and influential succeed for the most part in escaping” execution. Not much has changed since then, with 35% of the 3260 people currently on death row in the US being black and 7% percent being Latino, while nearly all, regardless of race, are from low-income backgrounds.
The EU delegates, after listing cases in other countries where pressure is needed, noted that “35 states in the USA still have the death penalty, although 4 of them have not held executions since 1976” and that while executions increased to 52 in 2009, “some states have moved against the death penalty through measures including a moratorium on executions or its abolition”.
The gradual abolition of the death penalty in the USA relates more to money than morality, as cash-starved states can no longer afford the enormous cost of capital prosecutions and specialized death row prison units. The state of New Jersey, for example, halted death penalty proceedings in 2007 upon discovering that it cost $253 million dollars to secure 60 death sentences, fifty of which were later reversed by courts due to various improprieties.
The double reference to the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal indicates the level of concern in many European countries about his case, considered typical for many others. Abu-Jamal’s case, now 29 years old, is nearing some kind of decision, possibly a fatal one. On November 9, 2010 the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals will conduct a hearing to determine if Abu-Jamal will again face execution or will spend the rest of his life in prison. The court system has already rejected all of Abu-Jamal’s appeals seeking to overturn his conviction.
A delegate of Germany’s LEFT party, Sabine Loesing, who was particularly active in getting this resolution passed, told how happy she was that so many from a wide range of political parties had voted for the resolution and added that she would see to it that the pressure on Catherine Ashton, foreign minister of the European body, would not let up so that she raises the position of the resolution whenever she meets with leaders of states – like the USA – where capital punishment still prevails.
Outlaw the Death Penalty
9 October 2010, Watching America.com
Germany - Junge Welt - Original Article (German)
A large majority in the European Parliament has passed a motion calling for the abolition of capital punishment. Concerning the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a delegation of cross-group members will travel to the United States.
Three days prior to Oct. 10, the day set aside each year for protesting capital punishment, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for the global abolition of the death penalty by a wide margin. The final vote on the resolution was 574 in favor, 25 against with 39 abstentions. Sabine Lösing, speaking for the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL), told reporters, “We can consider it a great success that the African-American journalist, author and human rights activist Mumia Abu-Jamal was twice mentioned by name in the joint resolution. That’s an important achievement and in the final analysis an unambiguous statement by the European Parliament.”
The death penalty policy in the United States in general and for Mumia Abu-Jamal in particular had already been discussed in the plenary session by Barbara Lochbihler, former General Secretary of the German branch of Amnesty International, now spokesperson for the European Green Party, as well as by Sören Bo Sondergaard of the GUE/NGL. Jamal has now been on death row in Pennsylvania for nearly thirteen years.
The resolution is based on numerous international legal decisions, covenants and conventions, including both the U.N. General Assembly resolutions of 2007 and 2008 that call for the abolition of capital punishment worldwide. This resolution now encourages non-governmental organizations to actively pursue a global death penalty ban.
Besides the United States, other countries in which the death penalty and executions are considered “state secrets” were also targeted. Among them are China, Iran, Saudi-Arabia, Egypt, Nigeria, Libya, Belarus, North Korea, Japan and Iraq, where the Iraqi Parliament recently ratified the executions of at least 900 prisoners, among them women and children, according to the European Union document.
The resolution refers to Article 2 of the E.U.’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, which states, “No one may be sentenced to death or executed” and further calls upon the European Union “to energetically and actively work toward the abolition of capital punishment globally.”
A clear mandate to the European Commission and to Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union, has thus been made. In a speech during the plenary session, Ashton had already made clear the position that abolishing the death penalty was a high priority for the European Union and for her personally. Now she has been given a mandate by parliament to act on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal on death row in Pennsylvania and also for Troy Davis in Georgia. Ashton has been invited to act personally and on a regular basis for those who face imminent execution.
Parliamentary member Lösing has promised to dig deeper. “From now on I will appear regularly before the Commission to ensure Mrs. Ashton is carrying out the orders of the Commission.” She added that her political faction would keep the pressure on to ensure compliance.
On the occasion of the plenary debate of the resolution and its final adoption, several meetings and events were held by liberal and E.U. green party organizations in Brussels, to which Robert R. Bryan, Jamal’s chief defense attorney, was invited. Beyond that, plans were announced by Lösing and Sondergaard to send a cross-group delegation to the United States as early as next January.
In a joint meeting of the GUE/NGL, Bryan stressed how urgently important it was for European support in the matter, saying the involvement of E.U. parliamentary members in opposition to capital punishment in the United States and for the release of his client was of great significance. He urged all delegates to support an online petition to President Obama to this end. The mobilization of European support was essential, he said, due to the scheduled 3rd U.S. District Court hearing of Jamal’s upcoming Nov. 9 appeal to reduce his sentence to life in prison. Bryan said that he and his client were counting on European support, and that with it, their struggle to abolish the death penalty would gain strength and continue.