ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Dans le couloir de la mort, Mumia dérange
by Cathy Ceïbe
Translated Thursday 23 November 2006, by
Justice. The City of Philadelphia is bringing charges against Paris and Saint-Denis for “crime of denial”. It is accusing them of honoring the Afro-American journalist, Mumia Abu-Jamal, on Death Row since 1982.
It is from now on a scandal within a scandal: it’s about Mumia Abu-Jamal. A lawyer called Gilbert Collard, representing Philadelphia, and his New York counterpart Martin Bozmarov, filed a complaint on Friday 10 November against the cities of Paris and Saint-Denis, just north of Paris, for “crime of denial” (1) under article 24 of an 1881 French law, on behalf of the City of Philadelphia.
Mumia: condemned for being subversive
Paris City Hall has conferred honorary citizenship on the Afro-American journalist Mumia Abu Jamal. He was condemned to death in 1982 at the end of a rigged trial for the murder of a policeman, Daniel Faulkner, - a charge he has always denied. The municipality of Saint-Denis (in the Department of Seine Saint-Denis in the north of Paris), last April named a major street after the famous radio reporter, ex-member of the Black Panthers: rue Mumia Abu-Jamal.
“Mumia was sentenced to death because he is black and because he is a charismatic journalist,” his lawyer Robert Bryan told us in 2005. "Committed to defending the poor, he has always opposed the abuse and corruption in the US prison system, just as he denounces today the war in Iraq.”
Although on death row in a State of Pennsylvania prison, Mumia continues writing his subversive columns and books (2). Over the years he has become an emblematic figure of the movement against the death penalty, to the extent that 25 cities around the world, including Montreal and even Palermo, have made him an honorary citizen: a recognition which greatly irritates the political and judicial authorities and the police in Pennsylvania, who have never hidden their wish to have Mumia executed.
Honoring Mumia is “a provocation”
Out of all this, the legal complaint by the US lawyers of a “crime of denial” carries a clear political message.
“To award the honors of a city to a killer of a policeman is an immoral and irresponsible decision (…) The message is all the more disturbing at a time when French policemen are themselves exposed to an increasing number of attacks and of acts of urban violence”, the New York lawyer wrote in a letter addressed to the Paris City Council.
Martin Bozmarov informed the Paris authorities that at the end of November, a delegation of elected Democrats and Republicans from the Philadelphia City Council will be coming to Paris, to censure in the name of their fellow-citizens “this act of institutionalized affront to the memory of a slaughtered policeman”. Particularly disturbing, the Philadelphia Police Chief, Sylvester Johnson, will be accompanying the delegation, which is expected to meet with Nicolas Sarkozy’s principal advisor, according to the newspaper “France Soir”.
“The charge is so grotesque that it shows how weak are the judicial charges against Mumia” according to Jacky Hortaut, one of the leaders of the French United National Collective: Together We Will Save Mumia (3) which has organized a demonstration on November 29. For Hortaut, the delegation from Philadelphia is a provocation since the complaint coincides with new elements brought to light by Mumia’s defense lawyers. “They have done a massive amount of work, all of which clearly proves that all Mumia’s legal and constitutional rights have been completely trampled on”, Hortaut points out. The lawyers are still hoping that the deposition to the Federal Appeals Court will lead to a new trial.
Meanwhile, the shame and ineptitude just keep accumulating. In the columns of “France Soir”, the lawyer Gilbert Collard tripped over himself with ridiculous claims that put Mumia, such a well-known human rights activist, in the same class as assassins or members of the Gestapo , guilty of crimes against humanity.
(1) “Crime of denial” or “Apology of crime” … the term in French law (adopted in 1881) is “apologie de crime”.
(2) Mumia’s books include:
Live from Death Row (1996)
En direct du couloir de la mort by Mumia Abu-Jamal, Jacques Derrida, Jim Cohen, and John Edgar Wideman (Paperback - Oct 7, 1999)
Faith of Our Fathers: An Examination of the Spiritual Life of African and African-American People (2003)
Death Blossoms: Reflections from a Prisoner of Conscience (2003)
We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party (2004)