Home Nonviolent defense Free Mutulu Shakur: Calls Grow for Compassionate Release of Dying Black Liberation Activist

Free Mutulu Shakur: Calls Grow for Compassionate Release of Dying Black Liberation Activist

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FRIEND GOOD MAN: This is Democracy now!Democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I am Amy Goodman.

Dozens of civil rights groups have joined in urgent action for the compassionate release of longtime political prisoner Mutulu Shakur from prison. The 72-year-old black liberation activist has been jailed for more than 35 years, now suffering from bone cancer, which is believed to be near death.

Mutulu Shakur is the father-in-law of rapper Tupac Shakur. He was part of the black nationalist group Republic of New Afrika which worked with the Black Panther Party and others. He was convicted in 1988 of conspiracy and several armed robberies, one of which resulted in the death of a guard and two police officers, as well as aiding in the 1979 prison escape of Assata Shakur, who fled to Cuba, where she now lives. All of Mutulu Shakur’s co-accused have either been released or died. He reportedly expressed remorse for the lives lost and took responsibility for his crimes. He has stage 3 bone marrow cancer and has been eligible for mandatory parole since 2016.

To learn more, we are joined by two guests. Nkechi Taifa is a lawyer and CEO of the Taifa group, a long-time friend and supporter of Mutulu Shakur. Brad Thomson is a civil rights and criminal defense attorney with the People’s Law Office in Chicago. He has just filed two new requests for the compassionate release of Mutulu Shakur to the original judge in the case, who is now over 90, semi-retired. He also filed with the US Word Commission.

We welcome you both Democracy now! Brad Thomson, let’s start with you. Where is Mutulu Shakur right now? What is his physical condition? And what are you calling?

BRAD THOMSON: Hello, Amy. Thank you for hosting me.

Currently, Dr. Shakur is at Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky. It’s a federal prison. And he’s in dire medical straits. He’s been battling multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow, since 2019. And it’s an incurable cancer that he received treatment for, but the treatment stopped working. And in May this year, he was given a prognosis of six months or less to live. So that means that at this point, he has less than three months left to live. He fights to survive. And he wants everyone to know he’s fighting to survive, and he appreciates all the support he gets around the world. But the situation is extremely serious.

So, as you mentioned, we filed two separate lawsuits to try to secure his release. One is a petition for compassionate release in the Southern District of New York, which is submitted to the sentencing judge, who, as you mentioned, is still sitting on the bench as — in senior status, semi-retired. The second exhibit we filed is that last week we filed a motion for writ of habeas corpus in the Eastern District of Kentucky – this is a federal court in Kentucky – challenging the parole board’s most recent denial, mandatory parole, to Dr. Shakur. We just filed this last week, alleging that this denial is so egregious that it is a violation of Dr. Shakur’s constitutional rights.

FRIEND GOOD MAN: Now explain. Has he been eligible for parole since 2016?

BRAD THOMSON: Yes that is correct. Thus, Dr. Shakur is one of a limited class of federal prisoners eligible for parole. And the law under which he was sentenced establishes that at age 30 there is what is called mandatory parole, which is a strong presumption of release. Now, in 2016, the parole board, the United States Parole Board, has denied him mandatory parole on problematic justifications that have been challenged by lawyers in court. And a federal judge found his due process rights were violated by that denial and ordered a new hearing.

Earlier this year, a new mandatory parole hearing was held for Dr. Shakur, and the parole board again denied mandatory parole, erroneously concluding that he was likely to commit another crime. . Now, that’s a dubious claim under any circumstances, based on Dr. Shakur’s phenomenal prison record and his lifelong advocacy for reconciliation and nonviolence. But it’s even more absurd and outrageous given his current medical situation. He even has trouble sitting up in bed, and the parole board saying he is likely to commit another crime in his current condition is patently false and absolutely outrageous.

FRIEND GOOD MAN: And what did Judge Haight say? Again, the sentencing judge, who is now 91, who you’ve met before, and he said he wasn’t close enough to death, but you can come back when he is ?

BRAD THOMSON: To correct. So we filed for compassionate release in 2020. This was early in Dr. Shakur’s diagnosis of multiple myeloma, and it was also in the early stages of recovery. covid pandemic. At that time, Dr. Shakur was 69, then 70 and receiving cancer treatment, so he was at high risk of covid. The sentencing judge then denied our request, finding that his death was not imminent and that it was not inevitable that he would catch covid. Since that refusal, he has tested positive for covid three separate times, and he now faces death absolutely imminent. And so, we go back to this judge and ask that his sentence be reduced and that he be immediately released, as provided by law.

FRIEND GOOD MAN: This is an excerpt of Mutulu Shakur from the movie Drugs are deathabout his activism using acupuncture to treat drug addiction in the Bronx in the 70s and 80s.

MULUTU SHAKUR: My name is Mutulu Shakur. Well, I think it’s important to realize that the trailblazers are always the ones who are targeted like the jerks and hucksters and all the rest.

WALTER BOSCH Mutulu was our leader. He was one of the community’s most vocal activists at the time. Without Mutulu, we might never have had the acupuncture program.

MARY WEXU: He helped heal people. He liked to take care of people. He was good at it. there is no doubt. But I think he also used it as a political tool.

FRIEND GOOD MAN: This is Mutulu Shakur in Drugs are death. Nkechi Taifa is a long time friend and supporter of Dr. Mutulu Shakur, was one of his first lawyers. You’ve known him for so long. Can you say more about him and what you are asking for, Nkechi?

NKECHI TAIFA: Well, I would just say that I have been honored to work with social justice movements that Mutulu Shakur was involved in in the 70s. I have always known him as a savvy human rights activist, both domestically than abroad. In 1987, fresh out of law school, I worked with his attorney, Chokwe Lumumba, to help him craft new legal briefs calling for the indictment to be dismissed.

Since that time, there has only been an outpouring, a wave of support for his release. He’s not just a phenomenal healer – in terms of healing modality, in terms of treating addiction with acupuncture. He is also, as I said, a human rights activist. There are organizations like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU, Color of Change, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the Center for Constitutional Rights and others who have requested, appeal to the Department of Justice, the U.S. Parole Board, the judge in the case, the – Biden to release him in accordance with his powers of mercy, to let him go. He has served enough time. It is time for him to be able to live out these last days in the comfort of his family and friends.

All of his white defendants, co-defendants or people accused of similar conspiracies, some of whom I have represented – every last one of them has been released from prison. Only Mutulu remains behind bars. There is racism everywhere inside and out, and even in the movement, because the government is targeting people. Mutulu is still targeted.

FRIEND GOOD MAN: Well, Nkechi Taifa, I want to thank you for being with us, a longtime friend, former lawyer and supporter of Mutulu Shakur, and Brad Thomson, the current lawyer of Mutulu Shakur, who is about to die in jail in Kentucky. Brad Thomson works at the People’s Law Office in Chicago.

This does it for our show. Democracy now! produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo. I am Amy Goodman. Thanks for join us.