Foreign Minister must protest against death penalty for US journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal

27 April 2007

Foreign Minister must protest against death penalty for US journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal

SP Member of Parliament Krista van Velzen is asking Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Verhagen to bring pressure to bear on colleagues in the US to intervene to save the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal. "Mumia' as he is universally known, is an African-American journalist who has spent twenty-five years on Death Row. Through the diplomatic channels of the European Union it is common practice to request that a death penalty be commuted to life imprisonment, and Van Velzen is calling on the minister to enter such a plea in this case.

Mumia Abu-Jamal stands accused of having shot a Philadelphia police officer to death. The manner in which his case has been handled in court, however, as well as the fact that someone else has confessed to the killing, has led to numerous protests, including from Amnesty International, who have described the case as 'scandalous'.

On 17th May Mumia will have what will probably be his last chance at an appeal, with the prosecution once more demanding the death penalty. 'It is immoral to hold the sword of Damocles over someone's head for twenty-five years, and it would be good if Mr Verhagen could discuss this situation with his colleagues and make it clear that the death penalty is, as his predecessor in the job referred to it in relation to this same case, a "worrying problem,"' Van Velzen said.

In 1999 then Minister of Foreign Affairs Jozias Van Aartsen responded to a Parliamentary Question from SP leader Jan Marijnissen by stating that in exceptional cases the authorities in the US might be persuaded to change a punishment by a joint protest from EU member states. Van Velzen is asking the current minister to initiate this in the case of Mumia Abu Jamal. 'I'm asking him – in view of the conditions surrounding this case – to contact his American colleagues as soon as possible. In addition I'm calling on him to take the lead in issuing a European declaration against the death penalty in general and in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal in particular,' she said.

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