Revolutionary Worker #1117, September 2, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org
In March of 2000, FBI agents and police arrested Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, a Muslim cleric and well-known activist from the 1960s, in rural Alabama after a countrywide manhunt. Al-Amin was charged with shooting two Atlanta sheriff's deputies, one of whom died. Al-Amin is now in an Atlanta jail and on trial-facing a possible death penalty. The authorities have declared that the jury for Al-Amin's trial will have their identities hidden-the first such trial in Georgia.
There is every reason to distrust all of the claims and charges made against Al-Amin by the authorities. The police activities surrounding Al-Amin have been quite suspicious, and their version of events is full of holes. Shortly after he was captured, Al-Amin declared, "It's a government conspiracy."
Support for Jamil Al-Amin is growing. Lawyers have stepped forward to defend him. A "Hip Hop for Consciousness" benefit event took place at the Watts Labor Community Action Center in L.A. on May 12-featuring Mos Def, Dilated Peoples, Jurassic 5, Mystic, and others. A national support demonstration has been called for Atlanta on September 15.
Long-time Target of
the U.S. Government
Al-Amin has been a target of the authorities since his youth. In the 1960s, when he was known as H. Rap Brown, Al-Amin was a militant leader of the Black liberation struggle--known for his outspoken advocacy of armed self-defense and inner-city rebellions. He was targeted by the FBI's COINTELPRO ("counter-intelligence program"). Congress passed a notorious law, the "Rap Brown Amendment," specifically aimed at stopping Al-Amin and other radical activists from organizing resistance among the people. Rap was sentenced to prison for his militant activities and spent three years behind bars.
Since then, Al-Amin has embraced Islam and moved away from revolutionary politics. But he has continued to be persecuted repeatedly by police frame-ups and attacks in Atlanta, Georgia, where he has been living. (For further background, see "Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin in the Clutches of an Unforgiving System" in RW #1049, also available online at rwor.org.)
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that for at least five years during the 1990s, the FBI, ATF and Atlanta police carried out an intensive investigation of Al-Amin and anyone they considered associated with him. As part of their operations, the FBI placed informants within Al-Amin's Community Mosque. In 1995, at the height of this political police campaign, Al-Amin was arrested by a huge police force, including Atlanta's FBI Anti-Terrorist Task Force and ATF agents, and accused of shooting a man. The police set-up fell apart when the man announced that the police had pressured him into accusing Al-Amin. In the face of these frame-ups and attacks, Al-Amin has remained unrepentant about his previous revolutionary activities and his continued fight for justice for the people, especially Black people.
A New Attack
On May 31, 1999, Al-Amin was driving in Georgia's notoriously racist Cobb County when he was stopped by cops. The cops claimed the car-which Al-Amin had purchased a few months earlier-was stolen. The cops noted a badge in Al-Amin's wallet. This was a ceremonial badge he received from the town of White Hall, Alabama, for assisting in community events. The Cobb County police charged Al-Amin with driving without proof of insurance, receiving stolen goods, and impersonating a police officer.
The charges were absurd-but the targeting of Al-Amin escalated. On March 16, 2000, the authorities claimed that two sheriff's deputies went to Atlanta's West End Park to serve Al-Amin a warrant for failing to appear in Cobb County court. Police claimed that shooting suddenly erupted and that both deputies were hit in the firefight. One later died. Police announced that one of the deputies had wounded Al-Amin with a bullet to the stomach-and declared that they had found a fresh trail of blood leading away from the scene. Then they launched a massive manhunt for Al-Amin.
The police carried out Gestapo-like raids on the community of West End Park, alleging that people might be shielding Al-Amin-an open admission by the authorities of the respect and support he was known to have both in Atlanta and in rural areas of Alabama. Police sealed off West End Park, and a hundred cops with police dogs went house to house while helicopters aimed searchlights from above.
On March 20, Al-Amin was run down in Alabama by police dogs like a fugitive slave. But, to the embarrassment of the authorities, Al-Amin was not wounded-so he could not have left the trail of blood at the scene where the deputies were shot. Suddenly, this piece of "evidence" disappeared from official discussion. This was only one of a series of highly suspicious actions by the authorities in this case.
The surviving deputy said he was sure the man who shot him and his partner had gray eyes and was short in stature. Al-Amin's eyes are dark brown, and he is 6'5".
The police have destroyed a key piece of evidence. Originally, the police claimed the police car at the shooting scene had bullet holes from shots fired by Al-Amin. But the bullet holes could not have been made by someone firing from where the police version of events places Al-Amin. Now, the wheel and hubcap from the police car which was supposedly damaged by bullets are nowhere to be found. And at a pretrial hearing this August 16, a police detective said the sheriff's department needed the car itself so it was repaired and put back on the road.
At the August 16 pre-trial hearing, Al-Amin's lawyers tried to find out if Al-Amin and his mosque had been a target of government investigations and informants at the time of the March 2000 incident. When the lawyers questioned ATF and FBI agents on this issue, the attorney from the U.S. Justice Department (not the local prosecutor) raised objections. And the agents claimed they had no information on or authority to speak on investigations and informants against Al-Amin. Bilal Sunni-Ali, National Coordinating Liaison for the International Committee to Support Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, points out that the actions of the U.S. attorney show how deeply the federal government is involved in this case.
Some truth came through during an earlier pretrial hearing in June this year. An ATF agent said there was a classified investigation of Al-Amin in March 2000. This investigation is a continuation of decades of government harassment and spying against Al-Amin. Tarif Salim (Michael Warren), one of Al-Amin's defense attorneys, revealed in court that there are 44,000 pages of FBI files on Al-Amin.
The authorities have announced that the jury for Al-Amin's trial will be anonymous-their identities will be hidden, even from the attorneys. It will be the first trial in Georgia in which the juror's names and addresses are kept secret. In response to this outrageous move, defense attorney Jack Martin said, "The problem with a shielded jury is that inevitably...the jury will believe that the defendant is so dangerous they must shielded from him." Martin also said this move makes it seem that the jury should fear the Muslim community.
The defense attorneys have protested the gag order on Al-Amin. He cannot give interviews to the media to declare his innocence and describe his views and beliefs. The prison authorities are preventing Al-Amin from observing certain Muslim religious practices. On March 18 this year, a prison deputy reportedly made a threat against Al-Amin. The deputy told a prisoner, a follower of Al-Amin, "He killed one of ours and we're going to kill him."
At the rally outside the August 16 pretrial hearing, Bilal Sunni-Ali told supporters about the long history of federal government persecution of Al-Amin. He said that the U.S. government is "in conspiracy to stop any forms of protest, any form of struggling for justice."
Jury selection for Al-Amin's trial begins on September 12, 2001 at the Fulton County courthouse in Atlanta.
For more information contact International Committee To Support Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin: 547 West End Place SW, Atlanta, GA 30310 or call 770-215-2152.
NATIONAL RALLY FOR JAMIL ABDULLAH AL-AMIN
12 noon, Saturday, September 15, 2001
Woodruff Park (Peachtree Street and Auburn Avenue)
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