12-15-2011 first visit with Mumia at SCI Mahanoy. Call to Action!

Dear Friends:

I visited Mumia yesterday, December 15, in the new prison that houses him, SCI Mahanoy. Even though he has been released from death row, he remains in Administrative Custody while he awaits transfer to general population. Because he is still in Administrative Custody and not yet in general population,  visits still take place behind the Plexiglas barrier characteristic of the no-contact visits to prisoners on death row.

Mumia boarded a vehicle to SCI- Mahanoy in the early morning hours of December 14th at 4AM. Despite the dehumanizing character of the heavily armored vehicle that transported him from SCI Greene to SCI Mahanoy, Mumia delighted in the opportunity to see cows, horses, and Pennsylvania’s beautiful landscape during the 7 hour ride to Frackville, PA.

He described the last number of days as a “crazy whirlwind.”  Last Friday alone, he spent 6 hours packing up books, letters, and other belongings in preparation for what he believed was a move into general population at SCI Greene. But the Department of Corrections had other plans in mind. As you know, that same day, December 9, his call came through at the National Constitution Center.  At the prompting of Pam Africa, the last 30 seconds of that call turned into a rousing ovation to Mumia by the 1,100 people in attendance. This is what he wrote in a letter about his experience that very same night on December 9, “It’s been minutes since I’ve hung up the phone, and I’m still buzzing from the loving vibes zapping through the phone. It’s really electric!”

While in Administrative Custody at Mahanoy, Mumia is technically in “the hole.” This means that he has absolutely no human contact; absolutely no belongings in his cell other than a rubber pen, 8 sheets of paper and 8 envelopes (4 of which he has used to write letters to family and friends); he gets only one hour in the yard and one visitor a week; and at night the lights in his small cell are dimmed only slightly, and otherwise remain on all day.

Mumia noted that he missed the knock of his next door neighbor on the Row at SCI Greene, Sugarbear, who called for him through a knocked on the wall “at least 20 times a day.”

Mumia noted that as he was being escorted to his cell at Mahanoy, the majority of prisoners he saw in “the hole” were black and he immediately thought of Michelle Alexander’s evocative analysis and descriptions of mass black imprisonment nationwide.

Mumia is committed to remaining mindful of the challenges of this new period. He remains strong and hopeful about the possibilities of this next phase of struggle, both in his personal day-to-day life, and in the movement. He welcomes and is prepared for the change.

Mumia reiterated that despite his isolation and the alienating character of his transfer to Mahanoy, he feels vibrations of love around him.

We await, impatiently, Mumia’s transfer to general population and call on the DA’s office to complete the transfer immediately. PLEASE NOTE: The DA’s number and address below.

Let us remind the DA that Mumia should have been in general population since 2001 when Judge Yohn overturned the death penalty in his case; but the DA’s office held him on death row for a decade while it filed losing appeals. By law, Mumia should be in general population, not in “the hole.” We demand his immediate transfer.

With love and solidarity,

Johanna Fernandez

SETH WILLIAMS, Philadelphia DA

Three South Penn Square
Corner of Juniper and South Penn Square
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3499
215-686-8000

http://www.phila.gov/districtattorney/contact.html

Graham Nash and James Raymond release song & video in support of Bradley Manning

Rock and roll hall of famer Graham Nash and James Raymond have released a new song and video, “Almost Gone (The Ballad of Bradley Manning)”, in support of accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower Bradley Manning. The video release comes just in time to help raise awareness about Bradley Manning’s upcoming December 17th pretrial hearing – which is also Bradley’s birthday. The Bradley Manning Support Network is calling for that day to be an international day of solidarity in his honor, and to date over 40 events have been announced. Stand up for Bradley Manning.

Written and performed by Graham Nash and James Raymond, video by Andrew Thomas.

Bradley Manning Pre-Trial Hearing Opens Amid Tight Security

Charge sheet includes 23 counts against the WikiLeaks suspect, including that he knowingly ‘gave intelligence to the enemy’

by Ed Pilkington
Bradley Manning has been seen in public for the first time since he was arrested in Iraq in May 2010 for allegedly leaking hundreds of thousands of secret US state documents to WikiLeaks.

Security was exceptionally – some say bizarrely – tight at the opening on Friday of Manning’s pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade in Maryland. Though a small number of seats in the military courtroom were reserved for members of the public, rigid reporting restrictions remained in place that prevent any live coverage of the proceedings.

The full charge sheet against Manning was released for the first time. It includes a total of 23 counts against the soldier, the most serious of which is that Manning knowingly gave “intelligence to the enemy, though indirect means”.

The idea that WikiLeaks constituted an “enemy”, or a conduit to an enemy of the US state, will in itself be subject of much debate and legal argument. A second charge follows a similar theme, and accuses of Manning of causing information to be published “having knowledge that intelligence published on the internet is accessible to the enemy”.

Manning is charged with passing information from a secure database containing more than 250,000 records belonging to the US government – a reference to the US embassy cables that were published by WikiLeaks through a group of international newspapers including the Guardian in November 2010.

Another count refers to the first act of publication by WikiLeaks in February 2010 of a US embassy cable known as Reykjavik-13.

Aside from press and legal council, a small group of members of the public were allowed inside the courtroom. Admittance was decided on a first-come, first-serve basis. Those who got in had queued at the military base since “predawn”, a military media liaison officer said.

A vigil in support of Manning was due to take place outside the main gates of Fort Meade to coincide with the start of the hearing. About 60 supporters were expected to attend. On Friday afternoon, the group is due to be joined by members of the Occupy Wall Street movement, who are traveling by bus to the military base. A further rally will be held on Saturday to mark Manning’s 24th birthday. Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam war, will be addressing the protesters.

The army has come under criticism for taking so long to bring Manning to trial, and it faces further questions over how it is conducting the start of deliberations. The hearing is a preliminary stage, known as an Article 32, equivalent to a civilian pre-trial hearing, and is designed to assess whether the US soldier should be sent to a full court-martial.

Manning was charged in March with 37 counts relating to the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret documents to WikiLeaks from secure US databases that he allegedly accessed while working as an intelligence officer at the Forward Operating Base Hammer outside Baghdad. The documents included Afghan and Iraq war logs, a trove of US embassy cables from around the world and video footage of a US helicopter fatally firing on a group of civilians in Iraq including two Reuters employees.

It was the largest leak of US state secrets in history and Manning faces a maximum sentence of life in custody with no chance of parole. Technically, Manning could also face the death penalty on the count of “aiding the enemy”, but prosecutors have made clear they will not seek the ultimate punishment.

Among the stranger aspects of the pre-trial are that it begins on a Friday and will run throughout the weekend. The military authorities have indicated that each day’s proceedings could be extended late into the night.

“To run the hearing through a weekend right before the Christmas vacation is clearly designed to minimise both media coverage and public protests,” said Jeff Patterson of the Bradley Manning support network.

Patterson added that in his view the tight security around the case was an attempt to cast Manning as a dangerous individual. “The prosecution are pushing for a sentence of life with no parole, so they have to portray him as someone who deserves such extreme punishment.”

Reporters will be allowed virtually no access to the world outside the base while the court is sitting. There are also likely to be periods when the Article 32 goes into private session to deliberate on matters that the army regards sensitive to national security.

Under the military system, the proceedings will be led by an army official known as an investigating officer, whose duty will be to recommend at the end of the hearing whether Manning should move on to a general court-martial or face a lesser punishment.

Manning’s defence lawyer, David Coombs, has made official protestations that most of the witnesses he wanted to call have been declined by the military. Coombs had issued a list of 48 witnesses that he had wanted to summons, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Manning’s superiors and psychiatrists who assessed the soldier’s mental and emotional state of health before the WikiLeaks transfer of secrets occurred. But only 10 of the listed individuals were accepted, all of whom were also on the prosecution’s wish-list of witnesses.

In a filing, Coombs complained that any attempt by the military to block defence witnesses “would deny PFC Manning his right to a thorough and impartial investigation and turn this into a hollow exercise”. The lawyer added that Manning’s charges were “among the most serious charges that a soldier can face. The government must be prepared to accept the costs incurred by the seriousness of the charges that they have preferred against PFC Manning.”

Live twitter feed HERE

The Guardian’s ongoing coverage from inside the courtroom can be seen HERE

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited