[sixties-l] 60's Firebrand, Now Imam, Is Going on Trial in Killing (fwd)

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Date: Thu Jan 10 2002 - 17:33:26 EST

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    Date: Tue, 08 Jan 2002 15:04:37 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: 60's Firebrand, Now Imam, Is Going on Trial in Killing

    60's Firebrand, Now Imam, Is Going on Trial in Killing


    January 6, 2002

    ATLANTA, Jan. 5 - He says he is no longer H. Rap Brown and
    has renounced the ways of his old world, moving past a
    youthful history of violent confrontation that made him one
    of the most incendiary black activists of the 1960's and

    Now he is a Muslim cleric called Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin,
    and when he goes on trial for his life on Monday, that
    history will be part of his defense in the politically and
    racially charged case.

    Mr. Al-Amin is charged with killing a black sheriff's
    deputy in a shootout here nearly two years ago, but he says
    the accusation is simply the latest episode in a government
    conspiracy against him dating to the days of J. Edgar

    "The F.B.I. has a file on me containing 44,000 documents,
    but prior to this incident, their investigation has
    produced no fruits, no indictments, no arrests," he said in
    a telephone interview from the Fulton County jail, where he
    has spent most of the last two years. "At some point, they
    had to make something happen to justify all the
    investigations and all the money they've spent.

    "More than anything else, they still fear a personality, a
    character coming up among African-Americans who could
    galvanize support among all the different elements of the
    African-American community."

    In the interview, the first since his arrest, Mr. Al-Amin
    said his embrace of Islam had made him dangerous to the
    federal government and a threat to the black political and
    law enforcement leaders in Atlanta who arrested him and are
    prosecuting him.

    "They are trying to crush Islam before it realizes its own
    worth and strength," he said. "We are the biggest gang on
    the planet, and when you hear them talk about the
    `crusade,' you know what they are talking about."

    Mr. Al-Amin, 58, is the imam of the Community Masjid, a
    mosque in the West End of Atlanta, and had become prominent
    in national Muslim circles. Some of the nation's largest
    Muslim organizations are on his support committee, and
    Islam is likely to play a prominent role in the trial,
    which was postponed in September after the judge said the
    postattack atmosphere could be prejudicial. When jury
    selection begins, lawyers familiar with the case said,
    potential jurors will be closely questioned on their
    opinions of Muslims.

    Mr. Al-Amin is under an order from Judge Stephanie B. Manis
    of Superior Court restraining him from discussing the
    specifics of the case, and he declined to discuss his
    actions on the night of March 16, 2000, when two sheriff's
    deputies were shot while trying to serve him with a warrant
    for minor offenses including impersonating a police
    officer. One deputy, Ricky Kinchen, died the next day; the
    other, Aldranon English, recovered from his wounds.

    Mr. Al-Amin's murder trial will turn on the specifics of
    that night. Prosecutors seeking the death penalty will
    present evidence that the deputies were searching for him,
    and Mr. English is expected to identify Mr. Al-Amin as the
    man who shot him. An intensive manhunt followed the
    shooting, and three days later, Mr. Al-Amin was found
    hiding in a field in Lowndes County, Ala., after an
    exchange of gunfire with federal marshals. Nearby was a
    9-millimeter handgun and a Ruger assault rifle that police
    ballistics later matched to the ammunition used against the

    The defense will challenge each assertion, according to
    lawyers familiar with the case and pretrial pleadings.
    Immediately after the shooting, for example, both deputies
    told the police that they had shot their attacker, and yet
    Mr. Al-Amin was found uninjured, and the body armor he was
    wearing when arrested showed no signs of dents. In
    addition, they say, Mr. English said his attacker had gray
    eyes, yet Mr. Al- Amin's eyes are brown. Bullet holes in
    vehicles at the scene, across from the Community Masjid,
    indicate that the gunman fired from the middle of the
    street, yet Mr. English said his attacker was on the

    Because of the judge's order, neither the prosecutors nor
    the defense team were able to discuss the case. Other
    lawyers who have followed the case say the trial, which is
    expected to last a month once a jury is selected, will
    probably shape up as a classic battle of identification.

    "The district attorney will have to answer what may be a
    case of misidentification by the deputy who said he shot
    the defendant," said Buddy Parker, a former federal
    prosecutor now in private practice here. "The defense is
    going to have to explain why the weapons were found where
    they were. It's going to be a showdown."

    Underlying the legal battle is a racial and religious issue
    that has riven Atlanta's blacks and revived memories of a
    very different time in civil rights history. In 1964, when
    H. Rap Brown first signed up with the Student Nonviolent
    Coordinating Committee and began registering voters, few
    blacks were in positions of political power. After he
    became disenchanted with civil disobedience and organizing
    work, he began advocating a more violent struggle and was
    made an honorary member of the Black Panthers. He was
    charged with inciting a riot and carrying a gun across
    state lines and was captured after a 1971 shootout with the
    police in a New York City bar.

    Mr. Al-Amin converted to Islam in jail and moved to Atlanta
    in 1976, and by then, the world had begun to change. By the
    time of his arrest in 2000, the mayor, police chief,
    sheriff and district attorney in Atlanta were all black, as
    was the majority of the city, and many black leaders were
    furious that two deputies, both black, had been shot in the
    line of duty.

    Among the growing number of Muslims in the neighborhoods of
    the West End, however, Mr. Al-Amin was known as Imam Jamil,
    a soft- spoken community organizer who preached against
    drugs and gambling and never advocated violence. Few could
    believe that he would have shot two men, and many quickly
    subscribed to the conspiracy theory.

    "There's a real split," said Councilman Clarence T. Martin,
    who represents part of the area. "A lot of the neighborhood
    is very conservative and was very upset when two officers
    were shot. But in the Muslim community, in the struggle
    community, there's a lot of support for him. I expect all
    this will come up again once the trial starts."

    In the interview, made from a jail pay phone that
    automatically disconnected after 20 minutes, Mr. Al-Amin
    sharply criticized the judicial order preventing him from
    speaking out.

    "I can't even say I'm innocent," he said. "Do you know of
    any other defendant who is not allowed to say he is
    innocent? It's just part of the same continual persecution
    and prosecution against me, just part and parcel of the
    same thing."

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