German Academy of Arts Demands Freedom for Mumia
02.04.09 (von ivk) BERLIN, March 29, 2009 – The call to free Mumia Abu-Jamal from death row is now been taken up by some very prominent people at a meeting in the super-modern Academy of Arts building, just two doors away from the new U.S. Embassy. The respected Academy had decided on action. // By Victor Grossman
The call to free Mumia Abu-Jamal from the death cell resounded once again across the street from Berlin’s famous Brandenburg Gate. This time it was not chanted out on the square by a hardy bunch of fighters, muffled against the icy weather, some of them active for most of the 27 years of Mumia’s captivity. In well-spoken words it had been taken up by some very prominent people at a meeting in the super-modern Academy of Arts building, just two doors away from the new U.S. Embassy. The respected Academy, founded by royalty in 1691, had decided on action.
Most prominent speaker was Danielle Mitterrand, widow of the former French president and a fighter against injustice since anti-apartheid struggle days. Recalling that a street in Paris is named for Mumia, an honored citizen of Paris, she denounced the death penalty in general and said, to loud applause:
»Silencing Mumia would mean silencing 3000 people condemned to death in a land where the number of imprisoned people is breaking all records…The Americans do not deserve such barbarism!«
The meeting was chaired and organized by the German section of P.E.N., the worldwide organization of poets, essayists and novelists, whose US section chose Mumia Abu-Jamal for membership. His latest book, with a foreword by Angela Davis, is almost ready for publication. Among the many noted German members who support his right to a fair trial are Nobel Prize author Guenter Grass and the best-known East German writer, Christa Wolf.
Also supporting the rally was amnesty international, which has published a lengthy documentation proving the unfairness and illegality of the 1982 Abu-Jamal trial, against which, despite all the evidence, no appeal has ever been granted.
Gerhart Baum, once a member of the West German government for the conservative Free Democratic Party, added his voice to the meeting:
»I visited American prisons as cabinet minister and found that the majority of prisoners were people of color. They have no money, they receive no proper defense, they are used as scapegoats – this racist background forced me to be skeptical... The Americans are recuperating from the awful ‘Bush II’ phase…That is all changing now, and I can only hope that … even though the President has no direct influence in this case the atmosphere in the USA will now change….«
The meeting opened with a clip from the documentary film »In Prison my whole life« by the young Englishman William Francome, who was inspired to do the exhaustive research and interviewing because he was born on exactly the same day, December 9, 1981, when Mumia Abu-Jamal was imprisoned.
The film was followed by Mumia’s chief counsel, Robert R. Bryan, who flew in especially from his home in San Francisco to speak and explain the current situation regarding the case.
Within the next few weeks the Supreme Court of the USA must decide whether to rule on either or both of the following questions:
The demand by the Pennsylvania state to quash the revision of Mumia’s death penalty, thus possibly leading to his execution.
The demand by the defense that the original court trial in 1982 be annulled because of racist practices used in selecting a jury. At least one such case in the past led to success, which provides a ray of hope that Mumia Abu-Jamal might even win his demand for a new and fair trial or for his release. Mr. Bryan pointed out that the Supreme Court generally accepts only one or two percent of the cases brought before it. But the situation is not yet hopeless, he added.
A new petition campaign will begin, in Germany and internationally, to ask President Obama, although he cannot alter any decisions by Pennsylvania courts, to make an influential statement. Such a campaign could also serve to again publicize a highly symbolic case, which has largely been ignored by the main media and neglected by many former supporters, although the decisions are now more crucial than ever.
Many at the meeting were surprised to learn that Franz Müntefering, national head of the Social Democratic Party which now shares government power in Germany, has also expressed support for Mumia. But some recalled the nearly forgotten fact that a decade ago the Bundestag, Germany’s congress, not only officially opposed the death penalty in all countries but called explicitly for a new, fair trial for Mumia. If Europe could decide he would probably be free tomorrow.
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