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Mumia Abu-Jamal: half his life spent on death row

(RSF/IFEX) - 23 April 2010 - We, Reporters Without Borders, an international press freedom organization, strongly support the international petition submitted by defenders of journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has already spent half of his life on death row:

Website link to the petition (available in six languages):

Mumia Abu-Jamal was born on April 24, 1954. An alternative journalist and former Black Panther activist known as "the voice of the voiceless," Mumia Abu-Jamal was arrested and imprisoned on December 9, 1981 for killing a police officer - a crime which he always denied having committed. His death sentence, handed down in 1982, came at the end of a trial so tainted with racism and procedural irregularities as to raise serious doubts as to his actual guilt. The U.S. Supreme Court twice rejected his lawyer's appeal for a new trial, first in October 2008, and again in April 2009.

The first appeal was made on the grounds of pressures exerted on witnesses in order to obtain the journalist's death sentence, and the second on the grounds of discriminatory and racist methods used in the jury selection process at the beginning of the 1982 trial.

On March 27, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Pennsylvania decided in favor of a new jury trial to decide the sentence to be imposed upon Mumia Abu-Jamal. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, which, on January 19, 2010, ordered the Court of Appeals to rescind its previous ruling. This is a serious legal setback that could expedite Mumia Abu-Jamal's execution.

We, Reporters Without Borders, are of the opinion that:
- Mumia-Abu-Jamal has not been given a fair trial and should therefore be retried with every guarantee of impartiality.
- Mumia Abu-Jamal's death sentence only further exacerbates public indignation against an unfair trial, inasmuch as the element of doubt should benefit any accused person under any Rule of Law.
- The fact that Mumia Abu-Jamal is a militant journalist was a factor that weighed in favor of his death sentence in 1982, a decision that flies in the face of every principle of freedom of conscience and freedom of expression upheld by the United States Constitution.
- The law adopted by the State of Pennsylvania in 1996 - also called the "Mumia Law" - prohibiting any photographs, sound recordings or films to be made of a prisoner sentenced to death violates the principle of the free circulation of information ratified by the U.S. Constitution and federal law.
- The death penalty is incompatible with the Rule of Law and should be abolished in the United States and in every other country in which it is still applied or maintained in principle.

For all other information and to offer support for Mumia Abu-Jamal, please contact:
The Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan 2088 Union Street, Suite 4, San Francisco, CA 94123-4117

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