While Jimmy Carter points an accusing finger at violations of human rights in foreign countries, it has been conservatively estimated that there are at least 200 political prisoners in our American jails. These political prisoners, like all political prisoners, are in jail because of their beliefs, race, or religious origin.
In the last few months the Wilmington 10 have been getting a great deal of media coverage, but what about the other 190 still in jails? They are all victims of political repression, and many have been convicted as a result of dubious judicial procedures. In some cases, key witnesses have been known to change their minds at the last moments; with this change the verdict leans toward guilty.
These are but a few examples of America’s political prisoners. While the media continues to ignore information put forth by groups like Amnesty International, political prisoners are still in jails and continue to suffer. These examples of censorship and distortion in media coverage of these political atrocities qualifies this story to be nominated as one of the “ten best censored stories o£ 1977.”
Here are, in brief, a few examples of political prisoners and their jail sentences. Lee Otis Johnson, an organizer of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was sentenced to 30 years for passing one marijuana cigarette to an undercover police agent: Amnesty International decided that he had been framed because of his political activities as a SNCC organizer. Geronimo Pratt, one of the most respected black militant leaders in Los Angeles, was charged with a murder that was committed 350 miles from where he was on the day of the murder. Two other political prisoners are David Rice and Ed Poindexter. These two men were organizing the National Committee to Combat Fascism when a patrolman was killed by a bomb. The person who admitted planting the bomb and calling the police was allowed to plead guilty to “juvenile delinquency” in exchange for implicating Rice and Poindexter on charges of first degree murder.
Amnesty International–whose members are not allowed to work on A. I. prisoners within their own country: The reasons for this are: to maintain A.I.’s impartiality; to effectively use international pressure; and it may be dangerous in some countries.
Seven Days, “American Dissidents,” “U. S. A:: Political Prisoners by Any Other Name,” by T: D. Allman, May 23, 1977, p. 23
New Times, “Geronimo Lives,” November 11, 1977, p. 33
“Free David Rice and Ed Poindexter, Political Prisoners” pamphlet put out by the Committee to Free Rice/Poindexter.