Leonard Peltier, an activist in the American Indian Movement, whose goal was to organize the native American communities to stand up for their rights. In a Cointelpro style operation, he was sentenced to life for murdering two FBI agents on the basis of fabricated and suppressed evidence. Evidence exonerating Peltier was withheld by the FBI. In his appeal, the government admitted it had no evidence to show he killed the two FBI agents. Peltier has been imprisoned for 35 years for this crime that he did not commit. See Robert Redford’s documentary “Incident at Oglala”. whoisleonardpeltier.info
Mumia Abu Jamal is the most prominent political prisoner in the US. In 1981, Cointelpro style, he was arrested and sentenced to death in an unfair trial for the murder of a Philadelphia policeman. Mumia was an organizer and campaigner against police abuses in the African-American community, and was the President of the Association of Black Journalists. During his imprisonment he has published several books and other commentaries, notably Live from Death Row. See documentaries “Mumia Abu Jamal: A Case For Reasonable Doubt?” “Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary.” freemumia.com, Millions4Mumia.org, freemumia.org
Army Private Bradley (Chelsea) Manning, sentenced to 35 years in prison for sending to Wikileaks the Iraq War Logs, a comprehensive database which contained thousands of records detailing abuse, murder, torture and corruption during the war in Iraq. These included videos of US war crimes – all information that the U.S. people have a right to know. For over a year he was held in solitary confinement and subjected to psychological torture. Under public pressure, he is now in somewhat improved prison conditions. bradleymanning.org, couragetoresist.org.
The Cuban 5 (Gerardo Hernández, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez), sent by Cuba to report on the anti-Cuban terrorist networks operating in Miami. They collected information for Cuba, which gave much of it to the FBI to thwart a terrorist plot to blow up a Cuba bound civilian airliner. Those they monitored included Orlando Bosch and Posada Carriles, guilty of many bombings, including blowing up a Cuban passenger plane in 1976, killing 73 civilians. Bosch was pardoned by Bush Sr. Luis Posada Carriles remains free in Miami. The FBI did not arrest the Miami terrorists, but jailed the Cuban 5 in 1998. They were convicted of “conspiracy” to commit espionage and murder, and sentenced from 15 years to life (Rene Gonzalez now released). Both the UN Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International have condemned their trial. See: “Mission Against Terror” and “Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up!” Thecuban5.org, freethefive.org, antiterroristas.cu
Guantanamo hunger strikers are prisoners held in indefinite detention without trial, most since 2002. Ironically, by any definition of political prisoner, most political prisoners in Cuba are at the US military/torture base at Guantanamo. There are now 164 prisoners, 155 of them haven’t ever been charged with a crime. 84 were cleared for release over 4 years ago, yet still imprisoned because the U.S. considers it inconvenient to release them. Most of these 84 have been imprisoned without charge for over 11 years. At the end of August 2013, 34 are still on a hunger strike that began in February, protesting their indefinite imprisonment without trial, 31 of them force fed in a brutal manner that constitutes torture, in any attempt to break the hunger strike. closeguantanamo.org, www.witnesstorture.org
Ricardo Palmera, a Colombian revolutionary, is in solitary confinement in the Supermax prison at Florence, Colorado, serving a 60 year sentence for “conspiracy” to hold 3 captured CIA contractors prisoner in the FARC-held zone of Colombia. He was arrested in Ecuador in the process of negotiating with the UN for their release, then extradited to the U.S. where he was subjected to four separate trials. For years he led mass movements for social change, and many of his friends were murdered by death squads of the Colombian government. freericardopalmera.org
Black Panther Party, New Afrikan, and Black Liberation Army political prisoners, were victims of the COINTELPRO operations in the 1960s-70s when the FBI sought to destroy the Black liberation movement. This U.S. government campaign resulted in at least 38 Black Panther Party members being killed and hundreds more imprisoned on frame-up charges. Chicago BPP leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were murdered by the Chicago police on December 4, 1969 in one of these operations. The FBI used COINTELPRO to infiltrate and disrupt groups seeking basic change in society. Many Black liberation activists have been imprisoned as a result of these operations, dozens of them for over 30 years.
These include Russell Maroon Shoats, who has spent 40 years in prison, 30 in solidarity (russellmaroonshoats.wordpress.com), Jalil Muntaqim, jailed since 1971 (www.freejalil.com), Mutulu Shakur, who helped free Assata Shakur (assatashakur.org, assatashakur.com), and Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown). SundiataAcoli was with Assata Shakur (who escaped and found political asylum in Cuba) SundiataAcoli.org.
Veronza Bowers, imprisoned for 40 years, was convicted in the murder on the word of two government informers. There were no eye-witnesses and no other evidence independent of these informants. At trial, two relatives of the informants testimony insisting that they were lying was ignored. veronza.org.
Eddie Conway has been imprisoned since 1970 for attempted murder of a police officer. He was denied the right to choose his own lawyer, William Kunstler, and was assigned a lawyer who never met with him. Conway’s Post Office supervisor testified that at the time of the shooting, Conway was at work. Like so many other victims of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), is a former leader of the Baltimore Black Panther Party and was targeted for his political and social activism.See Marshall Law: The Life and Times of a Baltimore Black Panther. freeeddieconway.org
Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (David Rice), leaders of the Black Panthers in Omaha in the 1960s, were targets of COINTELPRO. Both men have been imprisoned for 43 years, serving life sentences on charges of killing an Omaha policeman. They were convicted on the testimony of a teenage boy who was beaten by the police and threatened with the electric chair if he did not blame the crime on Poindexter and Mondo. Amnesty International defends them as prisoners of conscience. See: youtube.com/watch?v=wi0luaq0eyM www.n2pp.info, www.itsabouttimebpp.com/Announcements/Justice_for_the_Omaha_Two.html
The Angola 3, Robert King, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace, in Angola Prison, LA, since the late 1960s. While in prison, the men joined the Black Panther Party and organized prisoners to build a movement within the walls to desegregate the prison, to end systematic rape and violence, and worked as jailhouse lawyers helping prisoners file legal papers. The Angola 3 were placed in solitary, blamed for the 1972 murder of a prison guard, and were kept in solidarity for a combined total over 100 years, the longest in U.S. history. King was released after 29 years in solitary once his conviction was overturned. Wallace’s conviction was overturned after 42 years of solidarity, two days before he died. Woodfox is still imprisoners in Angola prison. See In the Land of the Free, and Angola 3: The Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation. http://www.angola3.org
In 1969, Sekou Odinga was forced to go underground when he and 20 members of the BPP were falsely charged with criminal conspiracy in the infamous New York Panther 21 case. Sekou was captured in 1981 and tortured in a NY police station. The police and FBI were trying to find out information about Assata Shakur. Found guilty of freeing Assata Shakur and of attempted murder of police. Sekou is not eligible for parole until 2033. http://sekouodinga.com
Sekou Kambui, a BPP/BLA member, imprisoned since 1975, was convicted of the murders of two Klansmen. Some witnesses reported that they were threatened and forced to provide false testimony. This deprived Sekou of his defense that he was nowhere near the scene of the murders. consciousplat.com/page/political-prisoners
A number of other mostly Black Panther Party/ Black Liberation Army political prisoners have been imprisoned over 40 years for armed self-defense actions against the police: Herman Bell, Romaine ‘Chip’ Fitzgerald, Robert Seth Hayes, Kamau Sadiki (since 2002, freekamau.com). See: The FBI’s War on Black America:COINTELPRO, Cointelpro 101, Cointelpro Documentary prisonactivist.org, thejerichomovement.com, freedomarchives.org
Attorney Lynne Stewart was imprisoned for 10 years on charges of conspiracy to provide “material support” to terrorism and to “defraud” the U.S. government. An outspoken legal advocate for black activists and the poor, she was convicted in 2005 along with translator Mohamed Yousry and paralegal Ahmed Abdel Sattar on charges arising from her legal defense of Islamic cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who is serving a life sentence for a plot to blow up NYC landmarks in the early 1990s. lynnestewart.org
Sami Al-Arian was indicted in 2003 on multiple counts related to supporting a Palestinian group on the State Department’s terrorist list. One of the early victims of the Patriot Act, he was tried and imprisoned for “conspiracy.” Al-Arian spent over 5 ½ years in prison (3 ½ in solitary). He was repeatedly brought to trial and is now under house arrest for “criminal contempt” for refusing to participate in grand jury investigations. The documentary “USA vs. Al-Arian” explains his case. FreeSamiAlArian.com
Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera was a community activist mainly in the area of health care, employment, police brutality and involved in the Puerto Rican independence struggle in the 1970s and 80s. He is imprisoned for “seditious conspiracy” and connection to armed robbery. He is currently serving his 32th year of a 55-year sentence. Avelino González Claudio reached a plea agreement of conspiracy to rob bank funds, while stating he was acting in support of the independence of Puerto Rico, and in 2008, sentenced to 7 years in prison, as well as to restitution of the money. Boricuahumanrights.org, prolibertadweb.com
Shukri Abu-Baker and Ghassan Elashi of the Holy Land Foundation, were each sentenced in 2008 to 65 years in prison. Three others of the Holy Land 5 were sentenced to 13-20 years: Mohammad El-Mezain, Abdulrahman Odeh and Mufid Abdulqader. All were imprisoned for giving more than $12 million to charitable groups in Palestine which funded hospitals, schools and fed the poor and orphans. The U.S. government said these groups were controlled by Hamas, a group it lists as a terrorist organization. Hamas is the elected government of Gaza. Some of these charitable committees were also still receiving US funding through the USAID as late as 2006. Testimony was given in the case by an Israeli government agent whose identity and evidence was kept secret from the defense. This marked the first time in American legal history that testimony has been allowed from an expert witness with no identity, therefore immune from perjury. The defendants were acquitted in their first trial when the jury remained deadlocked. freedomtogive.com
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is an American-educated Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted in a U.S. court of assault with intent to murder her U.S. interrogators in Afghanistan and sentenced to 86 years in prison. Four British Parliamentarians wrote to President Obama “there was an utter lack of concrete evidence tying Dr Siddiqui to the weapon she allegedly fired at a US officer” and that she be freed immediately. The weapon she allegedly fired in the small interrogation room did not have her fingerprints, nor was there evidence the gun was fired.freeaafia.org
Dr. Rafil Dhafir founded the charity, Help the Needy in direct response to the humanitarian catastrophe created by the brutal sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. For 13 years before his arrest, he publicized the plight of the Iraqi people and raised funds to help them. According to the government, Dhafir donated $1.4 million of his own money over the years. As an oncologist, he was also concerned about the effects of depleted uranium on the Iraqi population which was experiencing skyrocketing cancer rates. In February 2003, just before the second US war on Iraq, Dhafir was arrested as a “funder of terrorism,” though no evidence was presented at trial. Dhafir was sentenced to 22 years in prison connected to breaking the sanctions against Iraq dhafirtrial.net
Abdelhaleem Ashqar, who, along with co-defendant Muhammad Salah, was charged but found innocent of “conspiracy” and terrorism-financing charges in 2007 for their opposition to Israeli occupation of Palestine. Ashqar was then convicted of “criminal contempt” for his decision to refuse to testify against other U.S. Palestinian activists before a grand jury, even though he was given immunity from the prosecution. For this refusal to testify, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison, the longest sentence ever handed down for that “crime.” http://www1.freewebs.com/free-ashqar/history/index.htm
Jeremy Hammond arrested in 2012 for the hacking of Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor), leaking information to Wikileaks showing that Stratfor spies on human rights activists at the behest of corporations and the U.S. government. He has been denied bail and held in solitary confinement, facing a maximum sentence of ten years. freejeremy.net
Barrett Brown is a writer/journalist whoe work has appeared in the Guardian, Vanity Fair, Huffington Post, Businessweek;. founder of Project PM, co-author of Flock of Dodos: Behind Modern Creationism. He wasimprisomed in 2012 related to the Stratfor case. Despite lack of direct involvement in the operation , he faces charges simply for allegedly pasting a hyperlink online. freebarrettbrown.org
Patrice Lumumba Ford was a Muslim targeted after 9-11 as part of the Portland Seven. Lumumba accepted a plea agreement, but he refused to further the “war on terror” by helping with more prosecutions. For that refusal he was sentenced to 18 years in a maximum-security federal prison on “conspiracy” charges. freelumumba.org
The MOVE 8 were sentenced to 30-100 years after the 8 August 1978 siege of their Philadelphia home by over 600 heavily armed cops, having been falsely convicted of killing a police officer who died in the cops’ own cross fire. The trial judge stated he had no idea who shot the officer. In 1985, eleven of their MOVE family members, including five children, were massacred by Philly cops when a bomb was dropped on their living quarters. move9parole.blogspot.com
Rev. Joy Powell was consistent activist against police brutality, violence and oppression in her community. She was warned by the Rochester Police that she was a target because of her speaking out against corruption. Rev. Joy, a Black woman, was convicted of burglary and assault by an all white jury; the state provided no evidence and no eyewitnesses. She was given 16 years. freejoypowell.org
Amina Ali and Hawo Hassan were convicted of “material support for terrorism” in 2011, and given 20 and 10 year sentences respectively. The two Rochester, Minnesota women had collected clothing and raised money to help destitute people in their homeland. The prosecution claims that they helped al-Shabab, an Islamist organization that fights to free Somalia from foreign domination.
The NATO 5 jailed in May 2012 before the NATO summit, based on accusations of undercover police informants. Brent Betterly, Jared Chase, and Brian Church await trial for “possession of incendiary or explosive devices, conspiracy to commit terrorism and providing material support for terrorism.” Sebastian Senakiewicz is charged with “falsely making a terrorist threat,” accused of saying to an undercover agent he had explosives when he didn’t. Mark Neiweem, imprisoned for “attempted possession of explosive or incendiary devices,” was accused of asking an undercover informant to acquire explosives. nato5support.wordpress.com
Eric McDavid and Marie Mason, environmental political prisoners, are both serving sentences of around 20 years imprisonment. In March 2008, Marie Mason was arrested for vandalism of a GMO office and of logging equipment in 1999 and 2000; no one was harmed in either of them. She was sentenced based on the Patriot Act to 22 years, given a longer sentence than even the prosecution asked for, and is now serving the longest sentence of any “Green Scare” prisoner. Eric McDavid was convicted of one count of “conspiracy” based on FBI informant testimony and sentenced to 20 years. He engaged in no illegal action. See Green is the New Red, supportmariemason.org, supporteric.org
The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its prisoners.
Hundreds of thousands of Latinos are imprisoned and “serving” jail terms based primarily on the color of their skin. Blacks and Latinos are about 31% of the US population, but 60% of the prison population.
Every 28 hours in 2012 someone employed or protected by the US government killed a Black man, woman or child. http://www.OperationGhettoStorm.org
Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5. 773-322-3168, email@example.com
One thought on “Political Prisoners in the United States”
interesting selection facts