“Angola 3” Member to Be Released On Bail After 37 Years

by Coalition to Free the Angola 3

Conviction Overturned, Judge Rules Albert Woodfox Must be Free During Appeals or Re-trial

Lawyers: Ruling Brings Hope for Remaining Prisoner, Also Spent 36 Years in Solitary for Guard’s Murder

Albert Woodfox, who has spent 37 years in prison at Angola Penitentiary, must be released on bail, according to a ruling issued today by United States District Judge James Brady. On September 25th, Judge Brady overturned Woodfox’s conviction for the 1972 murder of prison guard Brent Miller. Though the State has announced its intention to appeal that decision, until such an appeal is successful, according to today’s ruling, there is no conviction on which to hold Woodfox.

In his decision, Judge Brady wrote:
“[Woodfox] is a frail, sickly, middle aged man who has had an exemplary conduct record for over the last twenty years. At the hearing before this Court on October 14, 2008, testimony was adduced that if released Mr. Woodfox would live with his niece and her family in a gated subdivision in Slidell, Louisiana. Mr. Woodfox has withdrawn that request because of fear of harm to his niece and her family by members… This change was brought about by counsel representing the State of Louisiana contacting the subdivision home owners association and providing them with information regarding Mr. Woodfox. The Court is not totally privy to what information was given to the association but from the documents filed it is apparent that the association was not told Mr. Woodfox is frail, sickly, and has had a clean conduct record for more than twenty years…this Court GRANTS Mr. Woodfox’s motion for release pending the State’s appeal.”

Herman Wallace, who was also convicted in the murder, remains in prison at Angola. He has an appeal pending with the Supreme Court of Louisiana, which is similar in content to Woodfox’s successful appeal. The two men were wrongly convicted based largely on the testimony of a fellow prisoner, Hezekiah Brown, a serial rapist who was promised and received a pardon in exchange for his testimony against them. Brown was the sole professed eyewitness to the murder, and none of the physical evidence put Herman or Albert at the crime scene.

Woodfox’s legal team is now working with the court to reach an agreement on a suitable release location and plan for Woodfox; once they agree to a plan, Woodfox will be able to leave Angola. The lawyers anticipate the process to take several more days.

Woodfox and Wallace were each held in solitary confinement from the time of the murder until last March, after a federal court concluded that their suit alleging that such confinement for three decades constitutes cruel and unusual punishment could go forward. A third man, Robert King Wilkerson, was held in solitary at Angola at the same time for a different crime; he was released in 2001 after showing that he had been wrongfully convicted. The three are known as the “Angola 3.” All black men, they had been organizing nonviolently for an end to gang-enforced sex slavery and for better conditions inside the prison. Angola at the time was known as the “bloodiest prison in the US.”

“This is a major victory in a case where justice is long overdue. Albert went into Angola in his twenties, and he’s walking out in his 60s. There is no conviction against him now, and the state should not take another day of his life,” said Chris Aberle, Woodfox’s lawyer.

“In 37 years, Albert never gave up hope that someday he would walk out the gates of Angola. We continue to hope that Herman will join him soon. Neither of these men should have spent a day in Angola for this crime,” said Nick Trenticosta, also a lawyer in the case.

The case has attracted attention on the state and national level. Last spring, US House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI) visited the men, along with Louisiana House Judiciary Committee Chair Cedric Richmond (D-101). Richmond has announced his intention to hold hearings on the case, and Conyers continues to monitor developments.

The state had sought a stay of Judge Brady’s ruling ordering a new trial until the appeal process plays out. Judge Brady granted that request. The State must now either win its appeals, or will need to either release or retry Woodfox within 120 days of the end of its appeals.

Judge Brady held an initial bail hearing on October 14th; he postponed issuing a decision at that time to allow for additional depositions to be taken from Angola Warden Burl Cain and from a doctor who had examined Woodfox and his medical records. The State has now conducted both of those depositions.

For a copy of the judgment, to speak with the lawyers, or for any additional information on the case, please contact Emma Mackinnon, emma [at] fenton.com or 202 302 6920.

Hunger strike ends as Greek government caves

Infoshop

After 18 days 7,000 prisoners in greece stop their hunger strike after the ministry of justice concedes to a series of their demands, promising to release half the country’s prison population by April 2009.

On Thursday the 20th of November more than 7,000 hunger strikers in greek prisons demanding a comprehensive 45-point program of prison reform have decided to stop their hunger strike, already on its 18th day, after the Ministry of Justice responded to their struggle and to the widening solidarity movement which in the last weeks has held several mass protest marches in the greek cities by declaring that by next April the number of prisoners in greek jails will be reduced to 6.815 from the present 12.315, thus effectively releasing half of the country’s prison population.

The Ministry’s declaration in detail states that:

1) All persons convicted to a sentence up to five years for any offense including drug related crimes can tranform their sentence into a monetary penalty. This will not be allowed in the case the jury decides that the payment is not enough to deter the convict from commiting punishable acts in the future.
2) The minimum sum for tranforming one day of prison sentence to monetary penanlty is reduced from 10 euros to 3, with the provision of being reduced to 1 euro by decision of the jury.
3) All people who have served 1/5 of their prison sentence for 2 year sentences and 1/3 for sentences longer than 2 years are to be released, with no exceptions.
4) The minimum limit of served sentence is reduced to 3/5 for conditional release and for convicts for drug related crimes. Those condemned under conditions of law Ν. 3459/2006 (articles 23 και 23Α) are excepmpted.
5) The maximum limit of pre-trial impironment is reduced from 18 to 12 months, with the excemption of crimes puniched by liife or 20year sentence.
6) The annual time of days-off prison is increased by one day. Tougher conditions for days-off are limited for those convicted for drug related crimes under Ν. 3459/2006.
7) Disciplinary penalties are to be integrated.
8) Integration after 4 years into national law of the European Council decision of drug trafficking (2004/757).
9) Expansion of implementation of conditional release of convicts suffering from AIDS, kidney failure, persistent TB, and tetraplegics.
What the Ministry failed to answer with regard to the prisoners’ demands include:
1) Monetary exchange of prison sentences longer than 5 years, especially for 6.700 prisoners presently convicted for non-criminal offenses.
2) Abolition of juvenile prisons
3) Abolition of accumulative disciplinary penalties
4) Abolition of 18 months pre-trial imprisonment for a large number of offenses.
5) Satisfactory expansion of days off, despite the fact that the application of present liberties has been tested as succesfull during the last 18 years.
6) Immediate improvement of relocation conditions of convicts
7) Holding a meeting between the minister of justice and the prisoners’ committee

Thus in a press release, the Prisoners’ Commitee announced that:

“The amendment submitted to the Parliament by the Ministry of Justice tackles but a few of our demands. The minister ought to materialize his promises for the immediate release of the suggested number of prisoners announced, and at the same time implement concrete measures regarding the totality of our demands. We the prisoners treat this amendment as a first step, a result of our struggle and of the solidarity shown by society. Yet it fails to covers us, it fails to solve our problems. With our struggle, we have first of all fought for our dignity. And this dignity we cannot offer as a present to no minister, to no screw. We shall tolerate no arbitrary acts, no vengeful relocation, no terrorizing disciplinary act. We are standing and we shall stay standing. We demand form the Parliament to move towards a complete abolition of the limit of 4/5 of served sentence, the abolition of accumulated time for disciplinary penalties, and the expansion of beneficial arrangements regarding days-off, and conditional releases for all categories of prisoners. Moreover, we demand the immediate legislation on the presently vague promises of the minister of justice regarding the improvement of prison conditions (abolition of juvenile prisons, foundation of therapeutic centers for drug dependents, implementation of social labour in exchange for prison sentence, upgrading of hospital care of prisoners, incorporation of european legislation favorable to the prisoners in the greek law etc.). Finally, we offer our thanks to the solidarity movement, to every component, party, medium, and militant who stood by us with all and any means of his or her choice, and we declare that our struggle against these human refuse dumps and for the victory of all our demands continues”.
Prisoners’ Committee 20/11/08.

http://libcom.org/news/hunger-strike-7000-prisoners-across-greece-ends-after-government-promises-release-half-pris

Portugal & UK: Solidarity actions with Greek Prisoners’ Struggle

325 Collective

November 14, Lisbon, Portugal

“Friday, Nov.14, at 11h in the morning we distributed 200 A4-size leaflets in front and around the building of the Economy and Comerce Section of the Greek Embassy, in the center of Lisbon, leaving some of them inside the building also. The leaflets included a small introdutory text to the prisoners’ struggle, a few of their demands, and a chronology of the events until that day. Besides, it also included the following text:

“Prison is everywhere, in all our life. Constantly we are watched, controlled, identified, listened… it is the cop, the surveillance camera, the court, the judge, the police station, and our entire reality of forced interactions… it is the fear of being what we are, of saying what we feel, of doing what we would like to do… it is the everyday misery, it stalks us in our memory, it is a permanent threat…

Prison is also that isolate building, where only the convicted and the hangmen are… it is the siege from where we can not leave, it is the guards that control and torture us, it is our body in the hands of the state…it is the walls that enclose and hide us, that push us away for years… it is the place where everything is taken away from us…

Prison is, at the same time, an idea and a building. But always a reality.

In Greece, like everywhere else, the struggle of the prisoners is the only way to face and fight the reality to which they are forced. To accept prison is only possible due to all the means of alienation the state uses, inside and outside the prisons, and that create a daily life of fear and resignation. What’s happening today in the Greek prisons has born from the determination of individuals kidnapped by the state, and although we are outside the walls, that doesn’t mean we’re free. That freedom, we have to conquer it.

In Greece, in Portugal, and anywhere else, no condition of life inside a prison will ever be human, because that’s impossible inside a prison. There’s no reform of whatever nature that can, in any way, humanize this place where we’re locked up; where everything, with the exception of dignity, is taken away from us.

But dignity will always belong to those who struggle, to the insurgents, to the individuals.

There are countless ways with which to show our solidarity and spread the revolt, attacking control and the controllers of this world; the first step is to decide on which side we are.

Having said this, the only “demand” we have is the destruction of every prison and of this prison-society!

SOLIDARITY WITH THE PRISONERS IN STRUGGLE IN GREECE!

-anarchists”

—————————-

November 10, London, UK
Greek embassy attacked again by anarchists, spraypainted, windows smashed, car tyres slashed. “IF THEY GIVE US REPRESSION WE GIVE THEM DESTRUCTION”
——————————–

November 9, London, UK
On Sunday night the Greek embassy was spray painted with political slogans in solidarity with the prisoners in Greece and some windows got smashed. It was also done in solidarity with 3 animal liberation militants arrested in Sweden involved in a campaign to close a fur shop. “THE VICTORY IS OURS ATTACK no borders no prison …………….KEEP WARM, BURN THE FUCKERS los ropen huesos”

19-Year-Old Soldier Sentenced to 14 Months of Confinement for Refusing to Deploy to Iraq

19 year-old Army private Tony Anderson was court martialed Monday and sentenced to 14 months of confinement and given a dishonorable discharge from the military for “desertion with intent to avoid hazardous duty” and “disobeying a lawful order.” The young soldier refused to deploy to Iraq in July of this year on the grounds of conscientious objection to war.

“I know in my heart that it is wrong to willfully hurt or kill another human being. I simply cannot do it. I don’t regret following my conscience,” he said at his trial as he struggled to compose himself. “I know there must be consequences for my actions and I must accept this fact.”

Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Colorado Springs peace organizations attended the Ft. Carson, Colorado court martial to show their support for the young soldier. Immediately after being sentenced, Anderson was placed in handcuffs and taken to the Colorado Springs Criminal Justice Center, where he will be held for a few weeks until he is moved to an army stockade.

The 14 month sentence is one of the longest given to a U.S. military serviceperson for refusing to fight in Iraq.

Who is Tony Anderson?

Hailing from the small city of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Anderson says that he was never very attracted to military life, but joined the service at the behest of his father, who had always regretted not joining the military himself. Once in the ranks, Anderson realized that he had made an unfortunate decision. During basic training, he found himself ethically opposed to taking a human life in a military conflict. He was disturbed by seeing soldiers on his base return from Iraq deeply traumatized from their experience in combat. “I didn’t want to mess myself up for the rest of my life doing something I didn’t want to do to begin with,” he says.

Anderson had vague thoughts about filing for conscientious objector (C.O.) status but was discouraged from doing so by his commanding officers, who told him that it would not be possible for him to obtain, and even falsely informed him that he was “not the right religion.” Anderson was led to believe that filing a C.O. application would be futile.

Anderson says that when he was ordered to deploy to Iraq on July first, he “freaked out.” “What upset me most was the thought having to hurt or kill someone else,” he said at his trial. “I know this may be hard to believe, but I never really thought about the idea of hurting or killing another human being before I joined the military. And then in training, it just didn’t seem real. I knew I could be deployed someday but I just never gave it much thought. But when I got to Ft. Carson and heard that I would be going to Iraq, I realized that this was something I would have to resolve.”

Just hours before boarding his flight, he went AWOL, eventually turning himself in after 22 days in hopes of diminishing the severity of his punishment. On his return, Anderson was again ordered to deploy to Iraq immediately. This time, he simply refused, and he says, “they haven’t tried to deploy me since then because they realize I’m not going to go.”

Objection to war

Anderson is not alone: a growing number of U.S. troops are refusing to fight in the so-called “war on terror.” Army soldiers are resisting service at the highest rate since 1980, with an 80 percent increase in desertions, defined as absence for more than 30 days, since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to the AP Press. Over 150 resisters have come out publicly against the war, and some cases, such as Lt. Ehren Watada, the first army officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq, have garnered widespread support and attention.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of active duty G.I.s have been joining Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), an organization comprised of over 1,200 U.S. veterans who have served since September 11, 2001. With 12 active duty members at Anderson’s base alone, IVAW has taken a position of open support for G.I. resisters.

The rising number of troops who do not want to join the war face a challenge because conscientious objector status is difficult to obtain. C.O.s must prove that they are opposed to war in all forms, that their objection is based on “religious training and belief,” which can include moral or ethical training, and that their beliefs are “sincere and deeply held.” The application process is arduous and includes written applications, a series of examinations, and a hearing with an investigative officer. A decision on an application can take up to a year, and in the interim a C.O. application cannot forestall deployment to a combat zone, although it can help ensure that applicants are assigned duties which conflict as little as possible with C.O. convictions. Applicants face pressures to drop the issue from commanding officers, who “accidentally” lose the applications, impose informal punishments on C.O. applicants, or give false information about the process, as in the case of Anderson.

There has been no reliable study of the difficulty of obtaining C.O. status. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report finding that between 2002 and 2006, the Marine Corps and Coast Guard approved a third of C.O. applications, Army officials approved 55 percent, the Air Force approved 62 percent, and the Navy approved 84 percent. Critics claim, however, that these figures are grossly misrepresentative, as they do not factor in the number of potential applicants who are deterred at all stages of the process: anyone who did not make it entirely through the application process was not counted by the GAO.

Elizabeth Stinson, Director of the Sonoma County Peace and Justice Center, urges potential applicants not to be deterred by the difficulty of obtaining C.O. status and counsels them to seek support from allies in the peace movement. “Applying for conscientious objector status is hard,” she says. ” Still, I would love to see the amount of conscientious objector applicants go up. For some, it can be the most liberating thing ever.”

“There is a huge problem with people being discouraged by the chain of command from going through the process of applying for C.O. status,” said Andrew Gorby, who was discharged from the Army in May 2007 as a conscientious objector and now works for the Center on Conscience and War, a counseling organization that works to defend the rights of conscientious objectors. “But being granted C.O. status is possible. It is a matter of getting in touch with a qualified C.O. counseling organization.”

Court Martial

The young soldier, who remained in tears during much of the trial, did not have family present at his court martial. His mother sent a statement saying she does not agree with what her son did but believes that he was sincerely trying to follow his conscience.
Anderson’s civilian lawyer, James Branum, expressed frustration with the lack of fair process for cases of conscience and said, “I am disappointed by how long Tony’s sentence was. 14 months is on the high end, but it could have been worse. At least Tony was able to have his day in court.”

At the trial, Tony read a statement explaining that he was sincerely trying to do the right. He told of being deterred from for conscientious objector status at every step along the way, leaving him with the impression that his only option was outright refusal. He expressed regret that he did not initially move forward with the conscientious objector application.

Anderson closed by saying, “I only ask that you remember that I was trying to do the right thing.”

For more information about Tony Anderson’s case, and to find out how you can donate to help cover his legal expenses, please visit: www.couragetoresist.org

ELF Press Office Decries FBI Manhunt for EcoDefenders: Calls Pursuit Hypocritical

For information about political prisoners who have been jailed as a result of Operation Backfire, check out spiritoffreedom.org.uk ~ Abo.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 19, 2008

EARTH LIBERATION FRONT PRESS OFFICE DECRIES F.B.I. MANHUNT FOR ECO-DEFENDERS;
CALLS THE PURSUIT HYPOCRITICAL

See the top 20 Ecoterrorists in the United States at http://www.elfpressoffice.org/ecoterrorists.html

Washington, DC – In response to the F.B.I. announcement today increasing the reward offered for four Eco-Defenders allegedly involved in the $26 million fire that burned Vail Ski Resorts in Colorado in 1998, the North American Earth Liberation Front Press Office (NAELFPO) objected to the manhunt calling it “hypocritical.”

“During the last ten years, the federal government has wasted countless resources on its ‘Operation Backfire’ campaign aimed at demonizing those who are protecting the planet,” stated Lisa Nesbitt – one of the four new regional press officers with the NAELFPO. “Instead of tracking and prosecuting nonviolent eco-defenders, why isn’t the federal government locking up the real ecoterrorists, the CEOs of corporations who are inflicting violence and destruction on the environment every day?”

The Earth Liberation Front, or ELF, is an international, underground movement consisting of autonomous groups of people who engage in direct actions to protect the planet. Formed in 1992 in Brighton, England as an offshoot of the Earth First! organization, the ELF has been active in the United States since 1996. Since that time the group has conducted dozens of actions across the country and North America resulting in over $150 million in damages. Notorious ELF actions have included the $26 million arson attack at Colorado’s Vail Ski Resort in 1998 and the $50 million arson attack on a five-story condominium project in San Diego, CA in 2003.

Since the year 2001, the ELF has been considered the top domestic terror threat by the F.B.I.

“If the federal government desires to stop ecoterrorism, it should begin by denying the $25 billion bailout package currently begged for by three of the top ecoterrorists in the United States – the three big automakers who ignored all concerns over global warming by relentlessly pumping out gas guzzling SUVs,” Nesbitt continued.

First established in 2000 as the public face of the Earth Liberation Front direct action movement, the NAELFPO returned on October 31, 2008 opening its doors to four new regional offices and press officers in the United States: Lisa Nesbitt (Northeastern Bureau); Tomas Peterson (Northwestern Bureau); Kristina Sanchez (Southwestern Bureau); and Jason Crawford (Midwest Bureau).

NAELFPO can be found on the web at http://www.elfpressoffice.org

Contact:
North American Earth Liberation Front Press Office (NAELFPO)
Tel: (202) 521-1482
Email: info@elfpressoffice.org

Posted in USA

2009 Political Prisoners Calendar

Order the 2009 Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar
online at www.certaindays.org

During the holiday season, many of us are looking for gifts that will
delight our loved ones, and also demonstrate our continued commitment
to social justice work.

The 2009 Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar is
exactly that – with 42 gorgeous full-colour pages of art and writings,
it will provide enjoyment throughout the year. And your purchase is an
important contribution to your community.

Get inspired by the work of grassroots organizers across Canada and
the United States! The calendar features DRUM (Desis Rising Up and
Moving), Philly’s Pissed, Incite!, Sumoud, Alvaro Luna Hernandez,
Inside Books Project, Laura Whitehorn, Robert Seth Hayes, David
Gilbert, Herman Bell, Peter Collins, The Cuban Five, Victory Gardens,
Common Ground, Native Youth Movement and more!

This year, we have reduced our price to make the calendar even easier
for you to give to your friends and family. For only $12, you can make
this meaningful and lasting gift. You can also purchase copies of 10
or more for $8 – a great fundraiser for groups.

PLEASE NOTE: The calendar collective is a small group, and mail takes
longer than usual during the holiday season. Be sure to order by
November 30 to avoid disappointment!

We may also be able to send rush orders of any size via expedited mail
for an additional fee – email info@certaindays.org.


Certain Days – Freedom for Political Prisoners & Prisoners of War Calendar
www.certaindays.org

Support Parole for Political Prisoner Seth Hayes

Robert “Seth” Hayes is a U.S. political prisoner and former member of the Black Panther Party who has been imprisoned in New York state for more than three decades. When Seth was convicted in 1974, his sentence was 25 years to life. The implicit understanding at the time of his sentencing was that Seth would serve 25 years as a minimum, after which time he would be eligible for release based on his record and conduct in prison.

In December of 2008, Seth will be going before the parole board for the sixth time. At each of Seth’s previous parole hearings, he was denied release due to the serious nature of the crime he was convicted of and given another two year hit. The refusal of parole for the serious nature of the crime is contrary to the spirit of the law, for it is something that a prisoner can never change, and the giving of parole is based upon the prisoner’s behavior while behind bars.

Seth is not the only one being subjected to these unfair rules. This has become common practice for the New York state parole board, which, by denying parole based on the seriousness of the conviction, is de facto re-sentencing many prisoners to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Seth’s prison record is exemplary, and if a decision about Seth’s parole were to be based on his conduct and personal growth, he would have rejoined his family and his community years ago.

Please write a letter to the parole board to let them know that you think Seth deserves to be released. Write your own letter, or use the sample letter that has been included in this document.

If you have a personal relationship with Seth, please consider writing about this relationship in your letter. If you work with a community organization or union, have a professional job, or are a rock star, please consider mentioning this in your letter (or writing on letterhead, etc.).

If you decide to personalize your letter, you may choose to include information drawn from the short biography also included in this package, where some of Seth’s accomplishments are highlighted.

More information about Seth can be found on a web page that has been put together by his supporters at www.sethhayes.org

All letters should be mailed or faxed to Seth’s lawyer, Susan Tipograph, by no later than November 30, 2008 as Seth’s parole hearing is taking place in December of 2008. Please send all of your letters to:
Susan Tipograph
Attorney at Law
350 Broadway
New York, NY 10013
fax (212) 625-3939

Sample Letter
Re: Robert Seth Hayes #74A2280
Dear Senior Parole Officer of Wende Correctional Institute,

I am writing on behalf of Robert Hayes, who is scheduled to appear before the parole board for the sixth time in December of 2008.

Robert Hayes’ application for parole was denied when he last appeared before the board two years ago. At the time of that appearance, his record was excellent. However, since that time his record is outstanding. Mr. Hayes has continued to work to help others and improve himself. While at Clinton Correctional Facility, he facilitated in the HIV Educators program to assist others as well as becoming a member of the Lifer’s and Long Termers Organization whose primary goal is to educate and instruct newly arriving inmates in adjustment to and preparation for final release from incarceration. Since his transfer to Wende Correctional Facility, he has coached basketball and participated in a local restorative justice project. These are but a few of his many accomplishments over his years of incarceration. I am confident that were he to be released, he would be a great asset to the community and to society at large.

There is no question that the crime for which Mr. Hayes was convicted was a serious crime. However, he has shown remorse and takes full responsibility for his acts. I am sure that you will agree that after serving 34 years, Mr. Hayes’ release at this time would not so deprecate the seriousness of the crime so as to undermine respect for the law. Moreover, if you examine all of the factors that are used to predict whether a person is likely to recidivate, those factors indicate that Mr. Hayes will not engage in any criminal activity. His disciplinary history during his incarceration indicates that he obeys the rules in prison; he has a supportive network of family and friends on the outside available to assist him in his reintegration back into society and he had an extensive work history prior to being incarcerated in addition to obtaining marketable skills in prison that will help him to obtain employment. Nothing is gained by his continued incarceration, and much is lost, as he has much to offer the community upon his release.

By the time that Mr. Hayes appears before the parole board, he will be 60 years old, more than 34 years older and considerably wiser than the man who was charged with committing the crime. He is a compassionate, caring individual and deserves a second chance. Please grant Mr. Hayes parole and give him that second chance.
Sincerely,
_____________________
Biography
Robert Seth Hayes was born in Harlem, New York in October 1948. His father, John Franklin Hayes, was the child of sharecroppers and came to New York City from South Carolina; his mother, Francine Washington Hayes, moved to New York from Pittsburgh. Both of Mr. Hayes’ parents worked for the U.S. Postal Service, trying to provide a better life for Seth and his four brothers and sisters. They also instilled in their children the desire to work for the betterment of their community. Seth writes, “My mother taught me to visualize family universally, not individually.” Seth’s father was a World War II veteran and a member of the United Negro Improvement Association, the Black Nationalist organization founded by Marcus Garvey.

Growing up in New York City, first in Harlem, later in the Bronx and Queens, Mr. Hayes saw one Black neighborhood after another suffering from neglect, despair, anger and defeat. During 1950s and 1960s with the growing rise of the civil rights and Black power movements Seth recalls witnessing over the years a birth of hope and determination to overcome these conditions.

After his schooling in New York City, Mr. Hayes worked as a psychiatric aide at Creedmoor Hospital. He was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Vietnam. He saw combat, was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal and the Vietnam Campaign Medal.

In the armed forces, Seth underwent a change of consciousness. After the death of Martin Luther King Junior in 1968, Seth’s troop was ordered to patrol the city streets with fixed bayonets to put down the rebellions resulting from Dr. King’s assassination. “It was the saddest day of my life,” Seth remembers, “and I could never identify again with the aims of the armed forces or the government.”

Upon returning to the United States from Vietnam, Seth was swept up in the Black Liberation movement and joined the Black Panther Party. He worked in the free breakfast for children program and began dedicating his life to the betterment of Black people. His knowledge of the effects of racism on the Black community convinced him that the Black Panthers’ program of community service ad community self-defense was what was needed. His work, like that of so many others, was disrupted by COINTELPRO. Fearing further attacks, he went underground, believing it to be the only way to protect the work of the Black Panther Party and the Black movement in general.

Robert Seth Hayes had two children prior to his arrest and imprisonment, and he has remained closely involved their lives and upbringing, despite the difficulties presented by his long incarceration. His son, Chunga, lives and works in Atlanta. His daughter, Crystal, herself mother of Myaisha, is a student at the Smith College graduate school of social work in Western Massachusetts. Seth calls his family “the loves of my life.” He describes his relationship with Crystal this way, “She has had the most intense impact on my life, always questioning, full of joy and insight, grasping lessons and maintaining her own dreams. She has kept me striving always to expand my knowledge and illuminate my principles, as I struggle to stay abreast of her questioning mind.”

Seth has been diagnosed with Type II diabetes and Hepatitis C. He has been extremely ill and had great difficulty procuring the necessary healthcare and has needed the help of his lawyers and some state political leaders in order to get adequate treatment.

While in prison, Seth continues to work for the betterment of the community in which he lives. He has participated in programs with the NAACP, the Jaycees and other organizations and has worked as a librarian, pre-release advisor and AIDS counselor. Whenever possible, he has taken college courses. He is also a longtime advisor and collaborator in the annual “Certain Days” Political Prisoner calendar project. He is dedicated to continuing to work for social justice when he gets out of prison. At Wende correctional facility, where he is currently incarcerated, Seth is working to put together a “lifers program” to help rehabilitate prisoners and prepare them to reenter the community. Seth also coaches basketball and works on assisting a local restorative justice project taking place in Buffalo.

For more information about Seth, please check out www.sethhayes.org or e-mail info (at) sethhayes.org.

U.S. admits it held 12 juveniles at Guantanamo

MSNBC

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The U.S. has revised its count of juveniles ever held at Guantanamo Bay to 12, up from the eight it reported in May to the United Nations, a Pentagon spokesman said Sunday.

The government has provided a corrected report to the U.N. committee on child rights, according to Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon. He said the U.S. did not intentionally misrepresent the number of detainees taken to the isolated Navy base in southeast Cuba before turning 18.

“As we noted to the committee, it remains uncertain the exact age of many of the juveniles held at Guantanamo, as most of them did not know their own date of birth or even the year in which they were born,” he said.

 

A study released last week by the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas concluded the U.S. has held at least a dozen juveniles at Guantanamo, including a Saudi who committed suicide in 2006.

“The information I got was from their own sources, so they didn’t have to look beyond their own sources to figure this out,” said Almerindo Ojeda, director of the center at the University of California, Davis.

Juveniles entitled to special protection
Rights groups say it is important for the U.S. military to know the real age of those it detains because juveniles are entitled to special protection under international laws recognized by the United States.

Eight of the 12 juvenile detainees identified by the human rights center have been released, according to the study.

Two of the remaining detainees are scheduled to face war-crimes trials in January. Canadian Omar Khadr, now 21, was captured in July 2002 and is charged with murder for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. special forces soldier. Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan who is about 24, faces attempted murder charges for a 2002 grenade attack that wounded two U.S. soldiers.

The study identified the only other remaining juvenile as Muhammed Hamid al Qarani of Chad.

The Saudi who hanged himself with two other detainees in 2006, Yasser Talal al-Zahrani, was 17 when he arrived at Guantanamo within days of the military prison opening in January 2002, according to the study.

About 250 prisoners remain at Guantanamo on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.

 

Update on political prisoner Ruchell Cinque Magee

Cinque was recently transferred to a new prison, his new address is:

Ruchell Cinque Magee
#A92051 C-2 107L
CSATF/ State Prison at Corcoran
P.O Box 5242
Corcoran, CA 93212
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BACKGROUND:

Ruchell Cinque Magee and the August 7th Courthouse Slave Rebellion

By Kiilu Nyasha

7/2008

“Slavery 400 years ago, slavery today, it’s the same but with a new name”.– Ruchell Cinque Magee

I first met Ruchell Cinque Magee in the holding cell of the Marin County courthouse in the Summer of 1971. I found him to be soft-spoken, warm and a gentleman in typically Southern tradition. We’ve been in correspondence pretty much ever since.

I had just returned to California from New Haven, Connecticut, where I had worked as an organizer and a member of the legal defense team of three Black Panthers, including Party Chairman Bobby Seale, on trial for murder and conspiracy. The second trial resulted in a true people’s victory, May 24, 1971. We had kept the New Haven courtroom jam-packed throughout the joint trial of Seale and Ericka Huggins that resulted in a hung jury. But the obviously racist judge had to dismiss it due to the enormous publicity and state expense incurred due to huge crowds and tight security.

In my correspondence with George Jackson, author of the bestseller, Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson, he had advised me to seek a press card in order to visit him at San Quentin. In so doing, I wound up working for The Sun Reporter, a local Black newspaper (byline Pat Gallyot), and covering the pretrial hearings of Angela Davis and Magee.

Already familiar with courtroom injustice, racism and bias against Black defendants witnessed in two capital trials, it didn’t come as a surprise that Ruchell was getting a raw deal in the Marin Courtroom where he was frequently removed for outbursts of sheer frustration.

By 1971, Ruchell was an astute jailhouse lawyer. He was responsible for the release and protection of a myriad of prisoners benefiting from his extensive knowledge of law, which he used to prepare writs, appeals and lawsuits for himself and many others behind walls.

Now Ruchell was fighting for all he was worth for the right to represent himself against charges of murder, conspiracy to murder, kidnap, and conspiracy to aid the escape of state prisoners.

Although critically wounded on August 7, 1970, Magee was the sole survivor among the four brave Black men who conducted the courthouse slave rebellion, leaving him to be charged with everything they could throw at him.

“All right gentlemen, hold it right there.we’re taking over!” Armed to the teeth, Jonathan Jackson, 17, George’s, younger brother, had raided the Marin Courtroom and tossed guns to prisoners William Christmas and James McClain, who in turn invited Ruchell to join them. Ru seized the hour spontaneously as they attempted to escape by taking a judge, assistant district attorney and three jurors as hostages in that audacious move to expose to the public the brutally racist prison conditions and free the Soledad Brothers (John Clutchette, Fleeta Drumgo, and George Jackson).

McClain was on trial for assaulting a guard in the wake of Black prisoner Fred Billingsley’s murder by prison officials in San Quentin in February, 1970. With only four months before a parole hearing, Magee had appeared in the courtroom to testify for McClain.

The four revolutionaries successfully commandeered the group to the waiting van and were about to pull out of the parking lot when Marin County Police and San Quentin guards opened fire. When the shooting stopped, Judge Harold Haley, Jackson, Christmas, and McClain lay dead; Magee was unconscious and seriously wounded as was the prosecutor. A juror suffered a minor injury.

In a chain of events leading to August 7, on January 13, 1970, a month before the Billingsley slaughter, a tower guard at Soledad State Prison had shot and killed three Black captives on the yard, leaving them unattended to bleed to death: Cleveland Edwards, “Sweet Jugs” Miller, and the venerable revolutionary leader, W. L. Nolen, all active resisters in the Black Liberation Movement behind the walls. Others included George Jackson, Jeffrey Gauldin (Khatari), Hugo L.A. Pinell (Yogi Bear), Steve Simmons (Kumasi), Howard Tole, and the late Warren Wells.

After the common verdict of “justifiable homicide” was returned and the killer guard exonerated at Soledad, another white-racist guard was beaten and thrown from a tier to his death. Three prisoners, Fleeta Drumgo, John Clutchette, and Jackson were charged with his murder precipitating the case of The Soledad Brothers and a campaign to free them led by college professor and avowed Communist, Angela Davis, and Jonathan Jackson.

Magee had already spent at least seven years studying law and deluging the courts with petitions and lawsuits to contest his own illegal conviction in two fraudulent trials. As he put it, the judicial system “used fraud to hide fraud” in his second case after the first conviction was overturned on an appeal based on a falsified transcript. His strategy, therefore, centered on proving that he was a slave, denied his constitutional rights and held involuntarily. Therefore, he had the legal right to escape slavery as established in the case of the African slave, Cinque, who had escaped the slave ship, Armistad, and won freedom in a Connecticut trial. Thus, Magee had to first prove he’d been illegally and unjustly incarcerated for over seven years. He also wanted the case moved to the Federal Courts and the right to represent himself.

Moreover, Magee wanted to conduct a trial that would bring to light the racist and brutal oppression of Black prisoners throughout the State. “My fight is to expose the entire system, judicial and prison system, a system of slavery.. This will cause benefit not just to myself but to all those who at this time are being criminally oppressed or enslaved by this system.”

On the other hand, Angela Davis, his co-defendant, charged with buying the guns used in the raid, conspiracy, etc., was innocent of any wrongdoing because the gun purchases were perfectly legal and she was not part of the original plan. Davis’ lawyers wanted an expedient trial to prove her innocence on trumped up charges. This conflict in strategy resulted in the trials being separated. Davis was acquitted of all charges and released in June of 1972.

Ruchell fought on alone, losing much of the support attending the Davis trial. After dismissing five attorneys and five judges, he won the right to defend himself. The murder charges had been dropped, and Magee faced two kidnap charges. He was ultimately convicted of PC 207, simple kidnap, but the more serious charge of PC 209, kidnap for purposes of extortion, resulted in a disputed verdict. According to one of the juror’s sworn affidavit, the jury voted for acquittal on the PC 209 and Magee continues to this day to challenge the denial and cover-up of that acquittal.

Ruchell is currently on the mainline of Corcoran State Prison doing his 46th year locked up in California gulags – many of those years spent in solitary confinement under tortuous conditions! In spite of having committed no physical assaults or murders. Is that not political?

Write him at: Ruchell Magee # A92051, 3A2-131 Box 3471 , C.S.P. Corcoran, CA 93212

Posted in USA