By Cindy Burke
The man known in history books as H. Rap Brown, famous for his role in the Civil Rights Movement, will soon go on trial for his life in Georgia. Before a single witness has been sworn, the judge in the case has slapped him with a gag order and found him in contempt of court because he proclaimed his innocence in a New York Times interview and in a letter to his congregation at the Community Mosque in Atlanta Georgia.
Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, is the name he took upon his conversion to Islam while in prison more than twenty-five years ago. He is now an Imam or prayer leader. In addition, Al-Amin is the head of a major branch of Islam in North America called the National Community. For many years, Al-Amin has lived a life of service to his community. Despite this, FBI and police have pursued him relentlessly including an investigation from 1992 until 1997 trying to find a link between Al-Amin and domestic terrorism, gunrunning and murder. The investigation included FBI paid informants in the Community Mosque in Atlantas West End and surveillance of Al-Amin and his associates.
In 1995, police charged Al-Amin with aggravated assault in a shooting that supposedly took place near a grocery store he owned. The shooting victim later said police threatened him if he did not agree to identify Al-Amin as his attacker. The case against Al-Amin was dropped but the FBI investigation continued until early 1996 when its findings were turned over to the U.S. Attorneys office in Atlanta. They declined to file any charges saying, We proceed on federal charges only when we believe we have actual evidence.
On March 16, 2000, police claim that two sheriffs deputies were shot while trying to serve a warrant against Al-Amin for minor charges. One deputy died the next day. The other deputy, who is still alive and the main witness against Amin, said that both he and his dead partner had shot and wounded the attacker. The deputy also said that the attacker had gray eyes and that eye color was something he was trained to notice.
Cops dont need proof of guilt, they know
After the shooting, a 911 caller told the dispatcher that a person in bloody clothing was begging passersby for a ride away from the scene. Police cited a trail of blood as the reason for a warrant to search Al-Amins store.
Al-Amin was arrested a few days later. Police claim that the gun used in the shooting was found nearby. Interestingly, though, Al-Amin showed no signs of any kind of wound. His eyes are dark brown, not gray. And the trail of blood? Police now say that was a mistakealthough it was reported as a certainty until Al-Amins arrest. Furthermore, the surviving deputy said that his attacker was on the sidewalk, but bullet holes in vehicles parked at the scene show that the shooter fired from the middle of the street.
Al-Amin is widely credited for helping to rid his neighborhood of drug dealers and prostitution. His brother, Ed Brown, a prominent businessman speaks on the case and explains that years of government vendetta against his brother motivate the false and, to those who know him, unbelievable, charge against Al-Amin.
Jury selection had been set to begin on September 12 until the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
Few living persons have been targeted by a government to the extent that Al-Amin has. To quote an April 16, 2000 statement by his friends and associates at the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee: In the Sixties, Rap Brown was hounded by authorities for his militant defense of all forms of Black protest. Al-Amin, while a very young man, was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement.
Amnesty International weighed in recently on what will be a major issue in the upcoming trial. In a December 10, 2001 letter to the District Attorney of Fulton County, the group announced the following: While not taking any position on the charges against Al-Amin, Amnesty International is troubled by the news that in the event of a conviction the prosecution intends to introduce excerpts of Jamil Al-Amins writings in the punishment phase of the trial as aggravating evidence for a death sentence.
Amnesty International voices concern over prosecution tactics
The Amnesty statement goes on to say, We are concerned that the introduction of this materialpresumably chosen for its perceived usefulness to the prosecution in its pursuit of a death sentence and excerpted from its context to this endruns the risk of inflaming the jury against the defendant on the basis of his opinions and beliefs, including those stated decades ago.
This is exactly the prosecution strategy used to secure the death penalty against Mumia Abu-Jamal and to camouflage the holes in the case. Prosecutors used statements they claimed a teenage Mumia had made to show that only his death would suffice to make society safe.
Al-Amin was found to be in contempt of a court order that he not speak out on the case. He told the New York Times, I cant even say Im innocent. Do you know of any other defendant who is not allowed to say he is innocent? Its just part of the same continual persecution against me, just part and parcel of the same thing.
In April 2002, an updated version of the autobiography written by H. Rap Brown, first published in 1969, will be released. The book originally went through seven printings and will be the same except for a new foreword that will comment on the current case. The title of the autobiography remains the same as it was when first published more than thirty years ago: Die, Nigger, Die.