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  New court battle set in Abu-Jamal case
By Michael Rubinkam Associated Press (AP)

About 1,000 protesters converged on Center City this morning in support of death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal as his lawyers pursued a last-ditch state appeal.

Abu-Jamal remained in a western Pennsylvania prison, barred from attending the conference in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court by an official who said there was no room for him in the city's crowded jails.

In a tense hearing lasting about 30 minutes, Judge Pamela Dembe refused a request by Abu-Jamal's attorneys to schedule oral arguments, and directed lawyers for both sides to file briefs on whether she should have jurisdiction over Mumia's petition for a new trial.

Abu-Jamal complained about not being able to attend the hearing, saying in a statement read by one of his attorneys, "The right to be present in the courtroom has been denied through no fault of my own."

District Attorney Hugh Burns said defendants are almost never present for such "status hearings," however.

Police Commissioner John Timoney estimated the crowd of protesters at 1,000. Many held signs or banners as they gathered in an area behind metal barricades just outside the Criminal Justice Center. The Rev. Jesse Jackson was among those entering the court.

"In the case of Mumia," Jackson said, "there is no absolute certainty that he did the killing in the first place."

Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe had asked that Abu-Jamal be brought to Philadelphia for the hearing, but a city official decided there was no room for him in the crowded jails.

Abu-Jamal's attorneys had asked Dembe to find the official in contempt of court, but the judge denied the request Wednesday.

"People are just so enraged," said Suzanne Ross, co-chair of New York-based Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition. "People couldn't believe that the state of Pennsylvania once again so openly violated the rights of somebody on death row."

Taking the opposite viewpoint, construction workers hung signs on scaffolding across the street on City Hall, including one reading "Fry Mumia."

"He killed a cop," said construction worker Danny Brown, of South Philadelphia. "Why should they free him?"

Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and radio journalist, was sentenced to death for the 1981 shooting death of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. His jailhouse writings have attracted worldwide attention from celebrities, death-penalty opponents and foreign politicians.

Abu-Jamal lost his first round of state appeals, but his latest petition argues that the defense has new evidence to clear him, including a confession by a man named Arnold Beverly.

In a 1999 affidavit, Beverly said he was hired by the mob to kill Faulkner because the 25-year-old officer had interfered with mob payoffs to police. But last month a federal judge refused to order Beverly to testify on Abu-Jamal's behalf.

Abu-Jamal fired his longtime attorneys in May after one published a book about the case.

Siehe auch:
Internationaler Aktionstag am 17. & 18. August
Mumia (doch nicht) vor Gericht - Sonderseite

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