Obama ignores clemency for political prisoners
The United States of America holds the world record for the most incarcerated population on the planet. Nearly 2.3 million Americans are locked into the country’s criminal justice system.Among them, hundreds of political prisoners the U.S. government does not recognize.
Andrew Young, the former U.S. Ambassador to the UN told the French Socialist newspaper Le Matin:
"There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people [in the U.S.] whom I would call political prisoners."
So when US President Barack Obama finally decided to execute his pardon privilege, his choices were disappointing to many, like Jim Klimaski, who litigates constitutional and civil rights cases. Klimaski told RT:
"President Obama had the opportunity of correcting egregious errors and the people he pardoned are essentially insignificant."
The men and women granted clemency all committed low level offenses such as forgery, drug possession, even mutilating coins. Some of the recipients of the pardons didn't even go to prison. In the stacks of pardon applications were those of prisoners like Native American Activist Leonard Peltier. Peltier, a member of the militant American Indian Movement was sentenced to two life terms in prison for allegedly killing two FBI agents. However, the initial trial was corrupted by faulty affidavits and coerced evidence submitted by the FBI. Some argue Peltier’s only crime was his political activism. Betty Peltier, Leonard’s sister told RT:
“They have no evidence at all that he killed anyone.”
Mumia Abu Jamal is also considered a political prisoner. He has been on death row for over two decades.
Abu Jamal was member of the Black Liberation Movement. He was charged for a crime world dignitaries and members of the European Parliament insist he did not commit. At a demonstration in Washington, DC one Mumia supporter said:
“The only reason why he is in jail is because he was framed.”
Political hip hop artist Immortal Technique has leant his support and voice to Mumia’s case. He believes these convictions are simply the most known cases of a systematic attempt to silence those seen as a threat to the establishment."They symbolize a system basically charging someone who is innocent with a crime. Someone specific who is attached to a movement.”
Hundreds of other cases fit the description of political prisoners. Such as the Cuban Five, in prison for investigating terrorists attacks against Cuba from Miami and the Puerto Rican Liberation fighters jailed for fighting for Puerto Rico’s independence from the U.S. Those groups, along with countless members of the Black Panther Party, became targets for political reasons some lawyers insist. Zachary Wolfe of the National Lawyers Guild has dealt with many flawed cases. He believes Obama acted with poor judgment.“Pardon Power is absolute, he can do whatever he wants and he has chosen not to,"
Wolfe said. He recalls previous pardons that were controversial. "It's hard to see any justice in the process. There are people who have done harm to democracy who have been pardoned such as Oliver North"
Oliver North was convicted of selling weapons to the Iranian government during the Iran/Iraq war to fund America’s covert war against the socialist Sandinista government in Nicaragua.The incident became infamous as the Iran Contra scandal.
Other controversial pardons in recent history include President Gerald Ford granting clemency to President Richard Nixon for Watergate and installing a vigilante program against political dissidents. President Bill Clinton pardoned billionaire fugitive Marc Rich while George W Bush commuted Scooter Libby's sentence, the man convicted of the CIA leak scandal.
There is an international precedent for recognizing and releasing political prisoners. France did it with its anarchists, Germany with the Red Army, Great Britain with the IRA. Not the US government. While a Senate committee once recognized the abuses committed by the FBI in persecuting activists for political reasons, Obama continues a long tradition of presidents who refuses to use his power of pardon for America’s alleged political prisoners.