On Wednesday, Mumia Abu-Jamal marked 31 years since his original death sentence was handed down by a Philadelphia court. Now 59 years old, Abu-Jamal, supported by thousands of in the U.S. and abroad, maintains his innocence and has pushed for immediate release.
After spending decades in prison, he remains one of the most divisive figures behind bars in the U.S., becoming a cause celebre for those who see him as an outspoken critic of police brutality, racism and U.S. wars abroad. Others stand by his original conviction, seeing him as a cold-blooded cop killer.“This man should have never been in prison for one day. Mumia will one day be considered a hero in U.S. history. There is no question, but today he is known as a cop killer,” said Dr. Suzanne Ross, a long-time activist and spokesperson for the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, to Mint Press News.The push for freedom After his sentence was commuted in 2011 to life in prison without the possibility of parole, supporters hope that Abu-Jamal will one day walk free. But what are the legal options? Representatives from the Free Mumia campaign hope that strong national and international support will create the momentum necessary for governor of Pennsylvania to grant clemency.“The governor can pardon him at any point. If he can be pressured, who knows what will happen? Right now there is a campaign to get the Justice Department to apply pressure for his release,” Ross said.Abu-Jamal’s legal team at the NAACP defense fund is also compiling evidence they hope will demonstrate his innocence and allow his lawyers to get a new trial.“He is a very popular and admired figure, especially by young people. He is loved and revered because he has stood by his principles. He has never weakened his position against U.S. wars and poverty. He spoke out against police brutality and racism. He told the truth about Philadelphia. If he was ever given another trial, the police would be exposed for racism and abuse,” Ross said.Over the years, Ross has carried this message to Haiti, Great Britain, France, Brazil, Venezuela, Germany and Algeria, where she has been greeted by “huge crowds and widespread support.” The salient question: Why so much attention and support for Abu-Jamal?The support comes mostly from highly contested flaws in the judicial process, pointing to what many claim say is a grave miscarriage of justice in the Philadelphia courts.
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