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Writers Demand Retrial For Condemned U.S. Journalist

August 1, 1995

PARIS (AP) _ Writers from around the world gathered Tuesday to honor American journalist and black militant Mumia Abu-Jamal _ and to protest his scheduled execution by lethal injection in a Pennsylvania prison.

Chinese poet Bei Dao read a poem in honor of Abu-Jamal. French philosopher Jacques Derrida called on Abu-Jamal’s judges _ ``those hard of hearing and hard of heart″ _ to grant a retrial. And the head of the International Writers’ Parliament, which organized the meeting, said Abu-Jamal had been framed.

From death row in Pennsylvania, where he is scheduled to be executed Aug. 17 for the 1981 slaying of a white police officer, Abu-Jamal has gained a worldwide network of supporters who consider him a victim of what they call a racist judicial system.

More than 100,000 people signed a petition given to the U.S. Embassy in Rome last week. South Africa’s largest black newspaper, The Sowetan, condemned what it called racism in the case.

Some 1,000 Germans demonstrated in front of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin last month, and two days later three more were arrested in Potsdam when they shouted ``free Mumia Abu-Jamal″ during a speech by former President Bush.

Abu-Jamal’s supporters portray him as a political prisoner railroaded by a hostile judge and by prosecutors who buried evidence. The prosecutors have stood by their case, saying ballistics evidence and eyewitness testimony prove Abu-Jamal shot Officer Daniel Faulkner.

Abu-Jamal, 41, had no previous criminal record. He is a former reporter with WHYY radio in Philadelphia who collected his radio commentaries in a book titled ``Live from Death Row.″

The secretary-general of the International Writers’ Parliament, Christian Salmon, condemned what he called the ``judicial error, not accidental, but constructed,″ of Abu-Jamal’s murder conviction.

He compared the case to France’s Dreyfus affair a century ago, when a young Jewish army officer was unjustly convicted of treason in a climate of widespread anti-Semitism.

Like France in the 1890s, America in the 1990s needs scapegoats, Salmon said.

``Who could wish for a more ideal culprit for the murder of a white police officer than this black man, a former Black Panther militant and journalist denouncing police violence against the black community?″ he asked at the meeting Tuesday, which was held at the headquarters of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Breyten Breytenbach, a white South African author and anti-apartheid activist, read a message of thanks from Abu-Jamal.

The president of the International Writers’ Parliament, author Salman Rushdie, did not attend the news conference at UNESCO and released no statement. Rushdie was condemned to death by the late Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran for blasphemy.

At a news conference in New York, writers William Styron, Paul Auster, Thulani Davis and Cornelius Eady protested the pending execution along with officials of the international writers’ group PEN and Fred Horstmann, administrator of the Committee to save Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Styron, author of ``The Confessions of Nat Turner″ and ``Sophie’s Choice,″ said Mumia’s sentence ``is regarded as an evil and barbaric act not only in the United States but by vast numbers of people throughout the world.″

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