September 2009

Der Spiegel: Lynch Rope Journalism

Free Mumia Now!

We print below an article translated from Spartakist No. 179 (September 2009) published by the Spartakist-Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, an innocent man, is a former Black Panther Party spokesman and a supporter of the Philadelphia MOVE organization. He was framed up, convicted and sentenced to death on false charges of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in December 1981. Mumia’s life is in increased danger. On April 6 the U.S. Supreme Court summarily turned down his petition to overturn the frame-up conviction. And the court has yet to rule on the Philadelphia district attorney’s appeal to reinstate the death sentence, which was overturned by U.S. District Court Judge William Yohn in 2001. Should the Supreme Court rule in favor of the D.A.’s appeal, it would place Mumia a big step closer to the death chamber.

Helping to soap the hangman’s noose is Der Spiegel, whose 24 August issue includes the article “The Fires of Hell,” a piece of smear job journalism aimed at preparing European “public opinion” for a death sentence. The article was promptly applauded by right-wing Philadelphia radio broadcaster Michael Smerconish as a potential “turning point” for the campaign to kill Mumia: “After almost three decades, Abu-Jamal is finally in danger of exhausting his time in the U.S. courts. Here’s hoping a usually captive European audience has finished accommodating a police officer’s murderer as well” (, 27 August).

Small wonder, since the Spiegel article retails a host of lies lifted from the pages of Murdered by Mumia, a book co-authored by Smerconish with Faulkner’s widow Maureen. The Partisan Defense Committee Fact Sheet pamphlet Murdered by Mumia: Big Lies in the Service of Legal Lynching, is a detailed refutation of this tract. The PDC Fact Sheet exposes as myth the claims which Spiegel regurgitates as “evidence” to paint Mumia as a “cop killer.” Thus the Spiegel smear job cites as irrefutable evidence the testimony of prosecution “eyewitness” Robert Chobert, who testified that he saw Mumia shoot Faulkner. But as exposed in the Fact Sheet, in 1995 Chobert admitted that he never saw the shooting. Additionally, he had not parked his taxi behind Faulkner’s police car, as he claimed: photos of the scene taken that night demonstrate this. Chobert, who had been driving with a suspended license for having been hired to throw a Molotov cocktail into a school, later changed his story several times, admitting in 1995 that he was secretly granted favors by the prosecution in exchange for his testimony during the 1982 trial.

Our comrades of the PDC have been fighting for more than 20 years on Mumia’s behalf, including by uncovering evidence of his innocence that refutes the police and prosecution lies and exposes the depth of this racist frame-up. The pamphlet The Fight to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, published in German by the Komitee für soziale Verteidigung, is a comprehensive exposure of the frame-up. It includes sworn statements by Mumia and his brother William Cook exposing as a lie Spiegel’s claim that Mumia “never told the judges what happened in that night.” In fact, one judge after another has refused to even consider these statements or the mountain of evidence of Mumia’s innocence, including the confession of Arnold Beverly that he and not Mumia killed Officer Faulkner.

For years, reformists and liberals have subordinated the fight for Mumia’s freedom to faith in the capitalist courts and appeals for a “new,” “fair” trial, downplaying or rejecting outright the massive, overwhelming evidence of the state frame-up. They raised the banner “Obama & Holder/We Need You Now!/Free Mumia” at the July convention of the black civil rights organization NAACP in a shameless appeal to the Commander-in-Chief of U.S. imperialism. A petition to Obama’s top cop, Attorney General Eric Holder, was issued by the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal and others in the U.S. Appeals to Obama are all the more grotesque in the face of Obama’s support of the death penalty. Smerconish regards Obama as an ally in his campaign against Mumia. Following an interview in which Smerconish questioned Obama about Mumia’s case, Smerconish became one of many Republicans who endorsed the Obama campaign. As recounted in Smerconish’s 20 August Philadelphia Daily News op-ed article, Obama said he wasn’t familiar with the details: “‘So let me just lay out a very clear principle: In my mind, if somebody killed a police officer, they deserve the death penalty or life in prison,’ he told me. Amen to that.”

Mumia’s case goes to the core of the racist subjugation of black people, which is fundamental to the maintenance of American capitalism. The whole frame-up underlines that the fight for Mumia’s freedom must be based on a class-struggle opposition to the racist U.S. capitalist system. Free Mumia now! Down with the racist death penalty!