thirty years since unfair trial of journalist and author mumia abu-jamal

by Tim Phillips

Thirty years ago this month, Mumia Abu-Jamal went to trial in Philadelphia for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner. Abu-Jamal was closely involved with MOVE, a multiracial community that protested injustices ranging from police brutality to animal exploitation in zoos. He was also a former member of the Black Panther Party.

As a result of Abu-Jamal’s political activity, he was under surveillance by the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), a secret war on dissent with which the Philadelphia police cooperated. His 1982 trial and conviction provoked criticisms that, combined with revelations about COINTELPRO false prosecutions and his claims of innocence, have cast doubt on the guilty verdict. Last December prosecutors finally halted Pennsylvania’s effort to execute him, but said he will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Cases like Abu-Jamal’s remind us to agitate unceasingly against political repression. In the words of attorney Lennox Hinds,

we threaten our own interests and rights when we condone by our silence the government’s use of surveillance, attacks on the legitimacy of political activists, and the use of the criminal law to suppress and punish political dissent.