Wed, 20 March 2013
A Tale of Two Political Prisoners – and You Can Help Both of Them
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford
“Woodfox has had his conviction overturned twice.”
There are two people who deserve your attention, today – right now. One has been held in solitary confinement for most of the past 41 years. The other has been fighting most of her life in defense of political prisoners – and has become one, herself. Albert Woodfox, of the Angola 3, is 66 years old. Lynne Stewart, the famed human rights lawyer, is 73, and suffering from Stage 4 breast cancer.
Albert Woodfox and two other Black men at Louisiana’s notorious Angola prison were convicted in the death of a prison guard in 1972, a case that became a cause célèbre for a variety of reasons, including the lack of physical evidence. The three had formed a unit of the Black Panther Party in the prison, in 1971. When the guard was killed, they were immediately put in solitary confinement, where two of them, Woodfox and Herman Wallace, remained for most of the intervening years under a sentence of life imprisonment. The third member of the Angola 3, Robert Hillary King, was released after 29 years of solitary confinement when his conviction was overturned and he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. King has travelled the world speaking out for his imprisoned comrades and for the release of all political prisoners. The Angola 3 have been the subject of three films, one narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.
Woodfox has had his conviction overturned twice, most recently this past February, when a federal court found evidence of intentional racial discrimination in jury selection at Woodfox’s second trial, in 1998.
Amnesty International is asking the Louisiana attorney general not to appeal the judges ruling, so that Woodfox can be released or given a new trial. They’ve organized a “Take Action” letter writing campaign, which you can join by going to Angola3news.blogspot.com or takeaction.amnestyusa.org.
“Lynne Stewart’s breast cancer was found to be spreading.”
Lynne Stewart is a people’s lawyer, who has put her own freedom on the line in the struggle to preserve all of our rights. In 2009, she was sentenced to 28 months in prison for having vigorously defended one of her clients, the so-called “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel-Rahman, in the World Trade Center bombing case. When she appealed, Stewart’s sentence was increased to 10 years in federal prison – the system’s twisted revenge. At a prison near Fort Worth, Texas, Lynne Stewart’s breast cancer was found to be spreading. Her husband and longtime political partner, Ralph Poynter, says 10 years is a virtual death sentence. Lynne’s family and legions of supporters are asking that she be given compassionate release from prison so that she can at least have a chance at survival.
There is no time to waste. To join in asking for Lynne Stewart’s compassionate release, go to the International Action Center’s website, and sign the petition. That’s iacenter.org. You can also write directly to Lynne from the same address: iacenter.org.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.