European activists praise court decision overturning death sentence of former Black Panther

Wednesday, December 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PARIS (AP) _ European politicians and activists on Wednesday hailed a U.S. court decision overturning the death sentence of former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, who claimed he was framed for the 1981 killing of a police officer.

Raymond Forni, president of the French National Assembly, issued a statement saying he was ``delighted'' that a federal judge in Philadelphia had ordered a new sentencing hearing for Abu-Jamal.

Abu-Jamal's writings on the justice system have attracted supporters around the world, and his effort to win a new trial has become a rallying point for opponents of the death penalty _ which is widely scorned in Europe. Police groups and others convinced of his guilt say he should be executed.

``I pay homage to (those) who mobilized in favor of Mumia Abu-Jamal and I hope that true justice will finally be delivered to him,'' Forni said. The Socialist lawmaker visited Abu-Jamal in prison in August 2000 while on a trip to the United States to attend a congress against the death penalty.

In a ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William Yohn cited problems with instructions given to the jury that imposed the death sentence against Abu-Jamal after he was convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner twenty years ago.

In Denmark, the Communist Party Marxist-Leninist released a statement calling the ruling ``a great victory for his supporters.'' The tiny group periodically organizes demonstrations calling for Abu-Jamal's release.

Last Friday, about 100 people from that group and other left-wing groups demonstrated outside the U.S. embassy in downtown Copenhagen to mark the anniversary of the Dec. 9, 1981, shooting.

German lawmaker Christa Nickels, who serves as chairwoman of Parliament's human rights committee, praised the judge's ruling as ``courageous.'' Nickels is a member of the Greens party, long a leading force in the Abu-Jamal cause.

``With his decision, he showed that the debate about the dubious nature of the death penalty in terms of human rights is bearing fruit. U.S. citizens are also increasingly concerned that innocent people could be sentenced to death,'' Nickels said in a statement.

MRAP, one of France's leading anti-racism groups, praised the judge's ruling but said it is only the first step toward obtaining justice for Abu-Jamal. The group claims Abu-Jamal is innocent of the charges and was railroaded by a racist justice system.

``More than ever, MRAP calls for vigilance and greater action in order to obtain the freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal and the abolition of the death penalty, a barbaric and medieval punishment,'' the group said.

The Paris office of the Young Communist Movement also issued a statement praising the judge's decision and calling for a new trial.

Celebrities, death penalty opponents and politicians in Europe have rallied to Abu-Jamal's cause. Earlier this month, Paris City Council named Abu-Jamal an honorary citizen of the French capital, the first person to receive the symbolic title since Pablo Picasso in 1971.