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Justice for Imam Jamil Abdullah al-Amin
ON Sunday afternoon - June 14th 2009 - I listened intently to Sister Karima al-Amin, Esq. She was being interviewed by “Like-It-Is” host Gil Noble about the continued incarceration of her husband, Imam Jamil Abdullah al-Amin.
Throughout the entire interview, sister Karima al-Amin was remarkably composed and resilient. Undeterred, for the past seven years, by enormous familial and personal pressures brought on by her husband’s incarceration, her presentation was nonetheless objective and clear.
In point of fact, her presentation was so persuasive that I decided to delve further into the circumstances that led to her husband’s incarceration. I suggest that others do the same, whether they are Muslim or not. Justice must prevail. First, I want to congratulate “Like-It-Is” host Gil Noble for his priceless contribution to American journalism and to African-American journalism in particular.
He is currently host of New York City’s WABC weekly public affairs series “Like-It-Is” and has concentrated exclusively on the series since 1986.
His mission: to illuminate the African-American struggle for political, social and economic equality. He is known for his serious, objective and high-quality discussions with significant African-American luminaries from Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) to Harry Belafonte to Muhammad Ali.
I particularly enjoyed his numerous interviews that highlighted that African-American struggle that the younger generation today fail to recognize.
Second, I would like to respond to those who have written ipso facto that Imam Jamil al-Amin’s conviction is an open-and-shut case.
I zero-in on the American apologist Daniel Pipes, who, since the horrific events of September 11th, 2001, has written extensively on “Islamo-fascism” and Islam-bashing. I was surprised to learn, though, that he has written a few articles around that time on Imam Jamil al-Amin’s conviction in a Georgia trial court in March of 2000 on the murder of a police officer and the attempted murder of another police officer. It is now clear that Mr. Pipes seized this unique opportunity to present his “expertise” on the subject of Islamic terrorism and its ideological origins.
In an article entitled The Curious Case of Jamil Al-Amin, he tries to blend international terrorism with domestic terrorism under the umbrella of “Islamo-fascism”. He targets Imam Jamil al-Amin. The tone of his article, appearing within the American Spectator’s edition of November-December of 2001, is dripping with sarcasm and arrogance. Not only does he try, with little success, to convince me that Imam Jamil al-Amin’s day-to-day conduct as a respected Imam of a flourishing Muslim community in Atlanta, Georgia, even remotely resembles what he refers to his “antics” during the 1960’s, but he tries to convince me that the facts as presented in a Georgia courtroom by prosecutors where the Imam was convicted is final and without doubt. I respectfully disagree on both counts.
Mr. Pipes gives us the following facts that led to Imam Jamil al-Amin’s conviction: two sheriff’s deputies – Aldranon English, 28, and his partner Ricky Kinchen, 35, approached the Imam near his store to issue him an arrest warrant. The Imam, wearing a black trench-coat, was standing by a parked Mercedes-Benz. The two sheriff deputies followed standard departmental procedure and ordered him to show them his hands; they were concealed. Mr. Pipes tells us that the Imam responded “OK, here they are” and pulled out (presumably out of his trench-coat) two guns. He fired a .223 caliber assault rifle, then switching to a 9 mm revolver. Six bullets killed sheriff deputy Kinchen. Sheriff Deputy English was shot in both legs, the left arm and right chest.
The next day English identified the Imam from a selection of mug shots. One brother close to Imam Jamil al-Amin, Jamaaluddin al-Haidar, in his article Uncovering the Conspiracy against Imam Jamil al-Amin, invokes the Qur’anic injunction to “investigate and ascertain the facts”.
“O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the facts, lest you harm people unwittingly and afterwards become full of repentance for what you have done.” (Al-Qu’ran 49:6) He tells us that while facts are facts, they often wear different suits and it all depends on who the tailor is.
The brother tells us that tailors often use “selectively revealed facts” to ensure that “exculpatory facts” remain concealed in order to sway public opinion and ensure a desired jury verdict.
The following are some of the trial facts:
The following points throw these trial facts into dispute:
- The prosecution almost systematically eliminated older African-American women who could have been expected to have some knowledge of the F.B.I’s COINTELPRO program, which targeted African-American leaders. I will elaborate more on this infamous F.B.I. program later;
- Other deputies stated that one or even both deputies had shot the assailant;
- The surviving deputy described the assailant as having grey eyes – the Imam’s eyes are brown;
- The crime scene contained blood on the street and in a neighboring abandoned house; however, the blood was discounted
- The Imam’s fingerprints were not found on any firearm associated with the crime
- Evidence that an individual confessed to be the shooter on the evening of March 16, 2000 was never introduced at trial by the prosecution or defense – this individual continues to maintain he was the assailant
- The Judge presiding over the trial court, along with the prosecution, assured that prospective jurors were to be shielded from the political upheavals of the 1960’s.
They answered detailed questionnaires about their political views on “radical” black political parties such as the Black Panther Party and their views on the Islamic faith.
During the trial the Judge forbade Imam Jamil al-Amin’s defense team from raising the issue of racism as it related to the trial. Prosecutors followed voire dire that weeded out those who already understood the interlocking relationships between racism and the criminal justice system.
The Judge embraced prospective jurors that were hostile to the defendant and the Black Liberation struggle. One woman on the jury, for example, was married to a sheriff’s deputy who had participated in bringing Jamil al-Amin back to Atlanta for trial, and she described how her husband had told her that Jamil al-Amin was “the most dangerous man in America”;
- The police version of the shootout contradicted the evidence – character witnesses said they walked up to Jamil al-Amin in front of his store to deliver a warrant, whereupon Imam Jamil al-Amin began shooting at them. However, exculpatory facts showed that the pattern of gun casings on the ground suggested the shooter was somewhere else. More importantly, when Imam Jamil al-Amin was captured days later, he was obviously not injured;
- Aldranon English, the sheriff’s deputy that survived the shooting, identified Imam Jamil al-Amin in court as the man who shot and killed sheriff deputy Ricky Kinchin and, by all accounts, his testimony played a significant role in Imam Jamil al-Amin’s conviction. Nonetheless, surviving deputy English is reported to have said this: “My mom always told me, ‘Look a man in his eye, always look a man in his eyes, So I remember ‘cause I was looking at him in his eyes. …I remember them grey eyes”. Again, the Imam’s eyes are brown;
- One deputy swore he saw blood on the ground where the alleged shooter stood in front of the grocery store the Imam owned. However, once the authorities captured the Imam and found no apparent injuries, the importance of the blood evidence was cavalierly pushed aside, suppressed, or “disappeared”;
- The weapons allegedly used by Jamil al-Amin to shoot both deputies did not have Imam Jamil al-Amin’s fingerprints.
- Three weeks after Imam Jamil al-Amin was captured and taken into custody in Alabama a man bearing a striking resemblance to the Imam is extradited from Georgia to Nevada where he is held by police. The man, Otis Jackson, had “absconded supervision”, a violation of his parole. Nevada documents show that as he was being booked “Jackson indicated to the officer that he had been involved in a shooting/murder of an officer when he was in Georgia”.
A State of Nevada Corrections memorandum dated July 24, 2000 and addressed to a Sgt. Bennet of the Atlanta Police Department shows that some believed that Jackson’s story was “credible” enough to warrant further investigation. No further investigation was done. Jamaaluddin al-Haidar offers a credible account of unfolding events that evening: “…on the night of March 16, 2000, he and another black male were at Imam Jamil’s residence when after approximately 10 minutes, Imam Jamil arrived. As the three men were talking, a police car arrived and the two officers attempted to serve Al-Amin with a warrant. Jackson admits that he initiated an argument with the officers ‘that got heated’. After Deputy English attempted to handcuff him, Jackson began fighting with him.
Deputy Kinchen came over to assist his partner. Jackson says he spun out of Kinchen’s grasp and punched him in the face. At this time Jackson pulls his 9 mm Smith and Wesson pistol and fire a shot at Kinchen…Jackson stated that during the shooting Imam Jamil tried to stop him from shooting at the officers by getting in his way”. In January of 2002, however, the Superior Court of Fulton Court, Georgia, summoned a jury pool of approximately 1,500 residents to be considered as jurors in the case against Imam Jamil Abdullah al-Amin.
The defendant was charged with 13 counts, including the murder of one Fulton County sheriff’s deputy and the wounding of another deputy on the evening of March 16, 2000. A jury of nine African-Americans, two Caucasians and one Hispanic took less than 10 hours to reach its verdict in a three-week trial. On March 14, 2002, the same jury found Imam Jamil Abdullah al-Amin guilty of all 13 counts of the indictment and pronounced a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
In addition, the presiding judge imposed an additional 30 years to the sentence as punishment on the remaining 11 counts. The jury declined to pronounce the death penalty, however. Imam Jamil Abdullah al-Amin was immediately moved to Georgia’s maximum security state prison in Reidsville, Georgia. He remained there in 23-hour involuntary lockdown until Georgia turned him over to the federal Bureau of Prisons. On August 1, 2007, with no federal charges or convictions, the Imam was moved to the Supermax ADMAX USP in Florence, Colorado.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council released a statement on March 9, 2002: “We do not believe the facts presented in court warranted a guilty verdict against Imam Jamil. His defense team offered credible evidence indicating that he was not the person who shot the deputies. We believe Imam Jamil will be exonerated on appeal”. Because exculpatory evidence was excluded from the original court proceedings, new court proceedings are crucial.
Perhaps the most powerful agent leading to Imam Jamil al-Amin’s trial court case that led to his wrongful conviction is that authorities have been persecuting him for almost 40 years. The Imam had gone through repeated police “frame-ups”. He had been under constant surveillance and was targeted for so long that his F.B.I. files run some 44,000 pages!
The F.B.I’s COINTELPRO program, initiated by former F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover in 1956, ruthlessly targeted African-American leaders during the 1950’s and 1960’s. This counter-intelligence program directed the F.B.I. to instruct its field offices to “disrupt, misdirect, discredit and otherwise neutralize” targeted groups and individuals”.
Close coordination with local police and prosecutors were encouraged. Documents discovered through the Freedom of Information Act in 1971 revealed three types of methods:
- Infiltration: Merely spying on political activists was not sufficient. The informers and agents’ main function were to discredit and disrupt;
- Deception: The F.B.I. and local police waged psychological warfare by printing bogus publications, forging correspondence and letterheads, sending anonymous letters, and making anonymous telephone calls;
- Harassment, intimidation and violence: in the form of evictions, job-loss, break-ins, vandalism, grand jury subpoenas, false arrests and frame-ups. Targets were threatened with physical violence, whether instigated or directly employed, with the aim of frightening activists and disrupt their movements.
There are many noted individuals who were targeted – Martin Luther King, Jr., Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X (El-hajj al Malik Shabazz), Bobby Seale, and, of course, H. Rap Brown, who is now Imam Jamil Abdullah al-Amin. The program even kept tabs on basketball great Wilt Chamberlain! Some revealing documents can be seen at http://foia.fbi.gov. Again, in the interest of justice, a new trial is needed to exonerate Imam Jamil al-Amin. Interested parties can go to http://www.ImamJamil.com for more important information.
The writer is a recent revert to Islam and can be contacted at: email@example.com
Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.