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2 Jun, 2020 18:27

This is the worst time to make a martyr out of Black Panther icon Jalil Muntaqim

This is the worst time to make a martyr out of Black Panther icon Jalil Muntaqim

Black Panther cop killer Jalil Muntaqim has just been refused compassionate leave on Covid-19 grounds after almost 50 years in prison. With Black Lives Matter riots tearing up the US, leaving him locked up was not a good idea.

It’s hard to call justice color-blind in the good ol’ US of A. Disgraced Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin, who choked the life out of his victim George Floyd when he viciously knelt down hard on his neck for almost 9 minutes, probably would’ve had the book thrown at him if he was black.

Instead, he is facing what many see as pathetically insufficient criminal charges – third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter with a maximum prison sentence of 35-years. We could argue justice will be served if he does end up being incarcerated for such a lengthy period. But in reality, Chauvin – who was worryingly the subject of 18 prior complaints made before this pointless killing – probably won’t even get half that much jail time.

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Regardless of how strict or lenient his punishment ends up being, it certainly won’t be anywhere near as severe as the half century (and still counting) that African-American Jalil Muntaqim has spent behind bars for his part in the brutal murders of two of New York’s Finest in 1971.

The former Black Panther rebel, who is one of the longest-serving prisoners in the US today, was originally sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of early release – which means a minimum of 25 years – for his crime. But he has been continually refused parole, lengthening the term to such an extent that it seems like someone in the Gulag probably got off lighter than him. There’s no way a white man would have been treated in the same fashion – even Charles Manson’s first parole hearing came a mere seven years after he went to prison for life.

It seems criminally twisted that elderly Muntaqim (formerly Anthony Bottom), if you believe the liberal news reports, is currently battling for his life after being struck down with the coronavirus.

But there’s no doubt he could indeed end up now taking his last breath in prison. He has never tasted real freedom as an adult, having first been incarcerated at the age of 19.

His case doesn’t seem fair when compared to Chauvin who literally squeezed the last breath out of his innocent victim, but yet I doubt he will die behind bars – unless he is somehow murdered in retaliation. But no prison governor is going to allow that to happen on their watch.

However, New York State will only have itself to blame if Muntaqim ends up dying behind bars as a result of Covid-19 and is then held up as some kind of martyr Black Panther “hero”. The truth is, no matter how you try to spin it, we’re talking about a convicted cop killer who once espoused violence – but that fact doesn’t excuse the powers-that-be for constantly moving the goalposts on him during his dozen appeals for release. It’s hard not to have some sympathy for someone who should’ve been out sooner.

And before anybody accuses me of being soft on crime, I’ll point out that I actually see merits in the death penalty – even being well aware of the system’s flaws. I’m on a very friendly basis with two innocent people who ended up on death row for allegedly murdering police, in both the US and Ireland, but were both eventually exonerated after spending many years behind bars. In fact, the woman in question, Sunny Jacobs – who was played by Susan Sarandon in a movie – was only found innocent after her first husband was already tragically executed for the same crime they were later found innocent of.

In truth, not many would have lost much sleep if it had been Muntaqim and not Eddie Lee Mays who had been the last man executed in New York some years earlier in 1963, but the State should not have kept dragging its heels on releasing him.

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Similarly, the New York State Attorney General Letita James should have let sleeping dogs lie and respected the Supreme Court’s decision to offer temporary release to 68-year-old Muntaqim instead of perversely blocking it. I would have to agree that it appears to be more “malice” than incompetence at play here.

But it’s certainly not racism seeing as James is herself a black woman. So, could she have been overcompensating instead? Regardless, it certainly raises eyebrows how the same state attorney, who was hell-bent on blocking an old man’s release, was asked to lead an investigation into recent violence by NYPD at a Brooklyn protest. It also really begs the question, “How many more Muntaqims are we in for?"

At a time when far too few inmates – but certainly some far more dangerous prisoners than Muntaqim – are being released due to COVID-19, it makes no sense that this old man wasn’t immediately let out on compassionate grounds alone. The decision not to release him was made last Thursday before the s**t really hit the fan with the civil unrest, but – with the whole world watching – they’d now be wise to do so immediately because it could blow up in their faces. If nothing else, the release could be seen as a gesture of good will.

With America already on a knife edge, Muntaqim’s case could fuel even more riots, which is something America needs like a hole in the head right now.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.