New German Petitions for Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier
On the eve of the April 24 event for Mumia in Portland, please be sure and sign these two new petitions.
PORTLAND EVENT: Friday, April 24, 7:00pm, at the Bread & Roses Center , 819 N. Killingsworth St. , Portland.
New ONLINE Petitions for Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier -
--Why Germans fervently support it more than ever - after the Supreme Courts terrible rejection of Mumia's appeal!
By Annette Schiffmann - German Network Against the Death Penalty and TFF-Transnational Peace & Future Research
Within three weeks this March 3000 people signed a new online petition for Mumia Abu-Jamal addressing the US Supreme Court - among them voices from Mexico, Brazil, Sweden, Ireland, India, Japan, Switzerland, Finland, Austria, Great Britain and the USA - but most of them from Germany.
Among them famous linguist Noam Chomsky, Robert Meeropol - son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg who both were executed in the Fifties, French activist Julia Wright, Britain's favorite actor Colin Firth, and former witness Veronica Jones who had been blackmailed not to give her exonerating testimony at Abu-Jamal's original trial.
The German voices include professors, publishing house editors, writers, physicians, members of parliament, and just ordinary people.
They are all signing for African-American journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal in his twentyseventh year on Pennsylvania's death row, asking the highest court of another country to hear the prisoners' case and hopefully grant him a new trial.
What has gotten into them? Why would they care?
It was in the late eighties when the director of a small German publishing house by sheer accident stumbled over Abu-Jamal and his writing and was immediately intrigued.
The sharp-wittedness as well as the style of the author, both serving the vivid description of the - by German standards - unimaginable circumstances this inmate was living in struck him completely. So did the ongoing horror of this case.
He decided to campaign for Abu-Jamal and to publish the author's books in German.
And people bought and read them and were totally stunned.
So this should be the prison system of the freest country of the world? Cells without windows? Underground prisons? Male wardens for women? Ongoing executions on a big scale? Come on! Not really. It must be somewhat exaggerated, right? This simply can't be happening.
While U.S. America's reputation among Germans in general had suffered badly from the war in Viet Nam, this was far worse than most people had dared to imagine.
The extremely appalling death penalty system, the incredible racism revealing itself in the grotesque disproportion of black and white people in prison, the blatant injustice of so many cases, including his own - Mumia's eloquent way of showing the inhumanity of capital punishment had a huge impact on both personal and political levels.
He rang a chord with many critical minded Germans - judging from our own past we could imagine quite well how political repression and racism in courts had worked in this particular case.
"The Germans" were the worst guys in history - and each and every German school kid knows it. We weren't and aren't allowed to ever forget what our grandparents did in the 1930s and early 1940 - and rightly so.
We all grew up with the slogan: „Never again" which referred to war and the alleged right of the State to kill, as well as racism and its inevitably cruel consequences.
That combined with the nagging and accusatory questions we all asked our parents and grandparents: „Where were you in this? Did you support it or did you resist? How come you went along with it?" was a powerful motivation for millions to stand up in the Sixties, Seventies and early Eighties to challenge our post-war system that - instead of thoroughly pulling out the roots of fascism - had been lulling us in comfortable prosperity and in the ideology that now everything was different.
It had been the United States of America that forced democracy on our parents and grandparents - and we grew up in admiration for the world of free speech and equality and the new great ideals, ideas, and the endless creativity it represented.
Enter the war against Viet Nam, enter the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to Martin Luther King, the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement and the way they were treated by the state - what disillusionment for so many of us about the real conditions in the land of the free.
Mumia and his case - like the case of American Indian Movement leader Leonard Peltier - for us captured everything the US was about ideally and was not in real life: a country of wonderful people with open minds, outspokenness, a strong sense for justice, equality and freedom, courage and inspiration.
And on the other hand a system that seemed to be obsessed with and corroded by its own unacknowledged history of brutal racism: the silent destruction and wiping out of the native population, the degradation of another entire people to animal status by forcing millions of human beings into slavery.
So these two cases held in a nutshell what we never wanted to allow happen again - in Germany or any other country.
By the end of the 1990s there were huge demonstrations in support of Mumia and Leonard in virtually every larger city in Germany.
Beginning as a political struggle conducted by leftists, these issues were quickly picked up by Amnesty International and rapidly spread to people from all walks of life, from actors to musicians to church representatives to students and to teachers and politicians in the German parliament.
The consensus was that this grave violation of legal standards needed to be addressed urgently. This was reflected in a resolution supporting Mumia by the German parliament in 2000, as well as a similar one from the European Union parliament.
Both resolutions demanded a new and fair trial for Mumia and called for a general stop of the death penalty in the USA.
After US District Judge Yohn threw out Mumia's death sentence while uphelding his murder conviction in 2001, protests became less frequent but many still follow the case to this day.
Now, in 2009 people are outraged by the apparent lack of interest in basic human rights US American courts continue to display.
Twenty-seven years of living in death row hell for a courageous journalist, who is one of the most audible and articulate independent American voices heard abroad is a plight so far beyond of the standards for the treatment of prisoners we have grown to take for granted in Europe that people literally gasp when hearing it.
Not to mention the monstrosity of 33 years in prison for Leonard Peltier, who everybody who really wants to know does know to be the victim of a malicious frame-up by the prosecution and the FBI, now sanctioned by federal courts.
After the recent change of US government a lot of people harbor new hopes about some self-healing process in the American system.
Whether or not that will materialize, though, is largely depending on American activists and their public demands for righting the wrongs on many levels - with the support of international solidarity.
Like former German Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Baum, of all people, put it in his speech for Mumia Abu-Jamal at Berlin's Akademie der Künste (Academy of Arts) on March 29: „The execution of the right of the strongest in the USA is changing now under Obama, and that is giving us hope."
The big event called for "Justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal" and starred high ranking prominents like Mumia's lawyer Robert R. Bryan and death penalty foes such as Danielle Mitterand.
„Racism is something we will always be ashamed of," Baum concluded. "The fact that we as Germans didn't conquer our basic rights ourselves but had to be given them by others is the very reason for our special responsibility to interfere."
Please sign the petition for Mumia Abu-Jamal:
And the one for Leonard Peltier:
The first 3000 signatures for Mumia have already been sent to the Supreme Court.
Annette Schiffmann - German Network Against the Death Penalty and TFF-Transnational Peace & Future Research
April 3, updated Easter, 2009
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