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France honours black death row inmate: the French capital, has bestowed one of its prestigious accolades, Honorary Citizen of Paris, on the radical African-American death row inmate, Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, civil rights activist and journalist, sentenced to die over 21 years ago for the murder of a white policeman, has become only the second person in three decades to be given the Honorary Citizen of Paris award. The last one was the Spanish-born painter, Pablo Picasso, in 1971.

At a ceremony attended by over 200 supporters, Bertrand Delanoe, the mayor of Paris, who gave the honour, attacked "the barbarity called the death penalty". He said, amid cheers, that "as long as there is a place on this planet where one can be killed in the name of the community, then we haven't finished our work".

Accepting the award on behalf of Abu-Jamal was none other than Angela Davis -another controversially radical former Black Panther, now civil rights activist and campaigner against the death penalty, who also gives speeches supporting black prisoners protesting their innocence in American jails.

Ms Davis praised Abu-Jamal's "profound sense of humanity". She also attacked America's unilateralism and "racist" attacks against immigrants in America.

"The movement to free Mumia has taken on a new sense in the face of American unilateralism, the aggression against the people of Iraq and the racist attacks against immigrants which only further gnaw at the vestiges of democracy in America," said Davis.

Now a professor at the University of California in Santa Cruz, Ms Davis aptly resonates with Abu-Jamal's plight. In 1971, while actively involved with the Black Panther movement and the American Communist Party she was arrested and charged for kidnap, murder and conspiracy in the Soledad Brothers murders--a case which became one of the most famous in the history of the US justice system. While in hiding, protesting her involvement in the murders, Ms Davis was put on the FBI "most wanted" list.

Her eventual arrest sparked an international campaign in support of her innocence, similar to the one for Abu-Jamal today. Upon her acquittal and release after a 16-month spell in jail, she became a champion campaigner of penal reform in America and a staunch opponent of racism and class-ism in the criminal justice system, including false imprisonment and the death penalty.

She was also famously removed from her teaching position at UCLA (University of California-Los Angeles) because of her political views and membership to both the Black Panther and the Communist Party. At that time, President Ronald Reagan (then governor of California) declared that Ms Davis would never ever teach at the University again.

Abu-Jamal, was sentenced to death 21 years ago for the murder of Daniel Faulkner, a police officer in Philadelphia. He has always protested his innocence, saying he was framed. A number of movements and organisations in his defence have been formed worldwide and for years now, have been campaigning for his acquittal and release. His opponents, however, view dais as support for an unrepentant cop-killer and they also campaign for his continued incarceration and eventual execution.

In France, where the death penalty was abolished in 1981, Abu-Jamal's plight is always a hot issue. Controversially, it is even used as a case study in some schools.
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Title Annotation:Feature
Author:Jere-Malanda, Regina
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Nov 1, 2003
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