Former Black Panthers Speak On Their Arrest For A 1971 Homicide
Written by [iZania Bot]   
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
November 27, 2007, New York – ENCOURAGED BY THE WORDS OF NOBEL PEACE PRIZE RECIPIENT ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU, WIDELY RESPECTED WABC NEWS LIKE IT IS HOST GIL NOBLE, AND SCORES OF COMMUNITY ORGANIZERS, former Black Panther activists will speak for the first time in New York on November 30, 2007 at 7:00pm at the SEIU1199 Martin Luther King Center, 310 W. 43rd Street, about their arrest last January on charges related to the 1971 death of a San Francisco police officer. Earlier that morning, at an 11:00am press conference at the interfaith church center (475 riverside drive-first floor lounge), World Council of Churches representative lois M. dauway will release an international call signed by several nobel laureates and key human rights organizations, calling for all charges in the case to be dropped.

The case was thrown out in 1973 when it was revealed that police torture had extracted the so-called “confessions” underlying the indictments. Now the case is back on although prosecutors have not brought any new evidence. They are basing the reinstatement of charges on the same coerced and flawed evidence rejected a generation ago.

In 1973, New Orleans police joined by members of the San Francisco Police Department employed torture over the course of several days to obtain information from members of the Black Panther Party. Members of the Panthers were stripped naked, beaten, covered in blankets soaked with boiling water, and had electric probes placed on their genitals and other parts of their bodies. A court ruled in 1974 that both the San Francisco and New Orleans police officers had engaged in torture to extract confessions. Judges in Los Angeles and San Francisco dismissed charges against the men in 1975 and 1976 based on that ruling. In 2005 a grand jury convened in San Francisco to reopen the case, but several of the men subpoenaed felt they were being wrongly compelled to testify and refused to give testimony. They were held in civil contempt and jailed until the expiration of the grand jury.

The activists, who now range in age from 56 to 72 years, will be speaking at the Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center in New York City at an event commemorating their activism and calling for the charges to be dropped. Gil Noble, veteran host of ABC-TV’s Like It Is, and Jill-Soffiyah Elijah, attorney for the activists and Deputy Director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School, will speak. “The case against these men was built on torture,” Elijah stated, “—the same torture that the US has recently engaged in at places like Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. It’s the same torture about which the Attorney General and the White House refuse to be honest—including the use of water-boarding and other unconscionable acts.”

The International Call, which demands an end to all incidents of torture within the U.S. criminal justice system, reflects a growing concern amongst the global human rights community and church groups on issues relating to U.S. domestic policies. Requesting an official investigation into the U.S. practices which led to the widespread repression of the civil rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s and 1970s, the Nobel laureates also call for the immediate release, on humanitarian grounds, of the two defendants not out on bail—political prisoners Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim, who have been serving disproportionately long prison sentences. Dauway, a Senior Executive of the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church and a central committee member of the WCC, noted that “the time has come to set free those who have been bound. This case requires all of us to come together and take an active stand for justice for all U.S. political prisoners.”

Soffiyah Elijah, who will also be speaking at the morning press conference, added, “The use of evidence extracted through torture to charge elderly activists is an attempt to criminalize dissent and rewrite the history of social justice organizations like the Black Panthers. No decent person should tolerate this nor stand by silently and watch what’s being done.”
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