Here are some of the principle reasons we think this rally is so important. By important we mean not only for us, the political prisoners, but for the Freedom Struggle overall.
1.) America's political prisoners have been in captivity a long long time. The approximately 200 political prisoners, and the fact that there is no complete listing of political prisoners is another sign of the lack of significant public awareness and low priority that many otherwise progressive and revolutionary organizations give to this issue, have all been locked up for 12, 15, 20, 25 and more years. For example, BLA and Black Panther Sundiata Acoli has been in prison for 25 years. Ruchell Magee, close comrade of long ago assassinated author and revolutionary George Jackson, has been in prison for over 30 years! American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier has been in captivity over 22 years. The 15 Puerto Rican independentistas have been behind walls for 18 years. North American social justice activist Bill Dunne has 19 years in prison.
Two separate International Tribunals, empaneled under the authority of universally recognized international law and procedure, have heard the specific cases of over 100 American political prisoners and called for the U.S. government to release us. The "Special International Tribunal On The Violation Of Human Rights Of Political Prisoners And Prisoners Of War In United States Prisons And Jails," convened and heard testimony in New York City in December, 1990. The "International Tribunal Of Indigenous Peoples' And Oppressed Nationalities In The USA," convened and heard testimony in San Francisco in October of 1992.
From Guatemala to Cuba to South Africa and many other countries, political prisoners are being released and the U.S. government has publicly and positively commented on these moves. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa is even pardoning the confessed police torturers and murderers of leaders like Steve Biko. Yet anti-apartheid activists in the U.S. continue to languish in prison, unseen, locked down and with no foreseeable release dates for decades to come.
2.) JERICHO 98 is especially significant because it is the first national demonstration in support of political prisoners in the U.S. in modern history. This rally has the potential to make a major political impact on the government, the media, the public and even the international community.
3.) The U.S. government pontificates and browbeats countries all over the world about political prisoners. Yet within its own madly expanding prison system, the U.S. denies the very existence of political prisoners. We must and can call the government to account for this.
4,) The reality that political prisoners, activists and freedom fighters of the 60's, 70's, and 80's, have been locked down for decades, has to weigh heavily on the minds of at least some present day activists. It's only logical for people to speculate and worry that they too could wind up buried and perhaps forgotten in prison, for their activism.
5.) JERICHO 98 will aid all political prisoners held by the U.S. Some more well known cases like Leonard Peltier or the 15 Puerto Rican anti-colonial activists, have active amnesty petitions in front of Clinton. Most of us don't have actual petitions or the public campaigns necessary to launch an amnesty effort, but the JERICHO rally will benefit us all.
6.) We are women and men, fathers, mothers, spouses, children of aging parents, some of whom have passed in our years of captivity. We are some of the people who opposed colonialism and the war in Vietnam, fought for justice, equality, human and economic rights, and for a peaceful world. It's time to recognize our existence and bring us back to our families and communities.
Leavenworth federal prison
Jaan Karl Laaman , Ohio-7 political prisoner -- in captivity since 1984
Tom Manning, Ohio-7 political prisoner -- in captivity since 1985
Leonard Peltier , AIM political prisoner -- in captivity since 1976
Luis Rosa, Puerto Rican POW -- in captivity since 1981
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