On Eve Of Papal Visit U.S., Like Cuba, Should Release Many Prisoners

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Mumia Abu-Jamal; serious ailment

The organizers of Days of Action for the End of the Blockade of Cuba in Washington, DC, September 16-18, are calling on President Obama to follow Cuban President Raul Castro's lead and release some of the more than 2.5 million prisoners currently in jails and prisons in the United States.

To mark Pope Francis's upcoming visit to Cuba, the Cuban government has announced the release of 3,522 people in that country's jails.

This humanitarian gesture will include prisoners over 60, younger than 20, those with chronic illnesses, women and those close to their release dates.

"Why can't Obama follow the Cuban example before Pope Francis continues on his tour to the US on Sept. 22?" asks Alicia Jrapko, a spokesperson for the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity for the Peoples, which is co-sponsoring the Days of Action in Washington this week.

The goal is to pressure the United States to end its failed blockade against Cuba.

The United States, Jrapko pointed out, has the dubious distinction of having the largest per capita prison population in the world. U.S. prisons are overflowing with people who are primarily incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, drug charges, or simply for being mentally ill and poor. Of these incarcerated there is a vast disproportionate number of people of color.

"As his presidency winds down, Obama could do the right thing by releasing an equal percentage of the prison population as the Cubans did," adds Gail Walker of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, another of the groups organizing the Days of Action. "Now that would be a humanitarian gesture that a war-torn world could appreciate and a worthy example of justice for the visiting Pope.  It would amount to freedom for tens of thousands of people."

Obama could start by releasing political prisoners like:

Black activist and journalist Mumia Abu Jamal, whose health is in rapid decline from untreated Hepatitis C; American Indian Movement leader Leonard Peltier, who just spent his 71st birthday in prison; and,
Oscar Lopez Rivera, the Puerto Rican Independence activist who has spent 34 years in prison on conspiracy charges.

"His sentence, far too excessive, violates the most elemental principles of humanity, sensitivity and justice," says the Governor of Puerto Rico Alejandro García Padilla after a recent visit with Oscar Lopez.

Jan Susler, the lawyer of Oscar Lopez, and Rafael Cancel Miranda, the legendary fighter for Puerto Rican independence will be among the speakers on a human rights panel during a conference being held as part of the Days of Action for the End of the Blockade of Cuba September 16-18.

Days of Action is co-sponsored by: IFCO/Pastors for Peace, Institute for Policy Studies, International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity for the Peoples, National Network on Cuba and the Venceremos Brigade.

For more information go to theinternationalcomittee.org

 

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