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Dozens of civil rights groups have joined an urgent push for the compassionate release of longtime political prisoner Dr. Mutulu Shakur. According to Democracy Now!, the 72-year-old Black liberation activist is said by prison doctors to have less than six months to live, after being diagnosed with stage 3 bone marrow cancer.
Mutulu Shakur was part of the Black nationalist group Republic of New Afrika that worked with the Black Panther Party and others, and is also the stepfather of the late rapper icon Tupac Shakur.
Six years after first being eligible for parole, Shakur waits in desperate need of an intervening force to return him home to his loved ones. Despite being diagnosed with incurable advanced cancer, he has been denied parole several times. His prior request for compassionate release has also been denied.
NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, American Civil Liberties Union, Color of Change, Center for Constitutional Rights, Black Voters Matter, Until Freedom, and Terence Crutcher Foundation are just a handful of civil rights organizations who have pledged their support for Shakur’s release.
In late June, The Intercept reported that 90-year-old Judge Charles Haight Jr., whom is the very same judge who had originally sentenced Shakur to prison over three decades before and continues to rule on his case to this day.
In some ways, by refusing to release the dying Black leader, federal authorities have effectively converted his “punishment” to a death sentence. Originally sentenced to 60 years in prison in connection with an armed bank robbery, Shakur became eligible for parole in 2016 after being locked up for 30 years.
While Shakur was not a Black Panther, he was very active in the Black Liberation Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s and he was involved in exposing COINTELPRO.
Conflicting evidence has left Shakur to rot in prison.
By 1981, Shakur would go underground for five years after his involvement in the “expropriation” of $1.6 million from a Brinks armored truck was alleged. This incident gave rise to the conspiracy charges, bank robbery and other charges against him and his subsequent incarceration in 1986. Two officers were killed during the Brinks incident.
Information from the campaign supporting his release explains that the evidence does not show that Shakur had been involved in either officer’s killing. But he has acknowledged and taken responsibility for his role in the underlying events and expressed remorse for the family and loved ones of the officers.
According to The Intercept, the Bureau of Prisons-contracted doctors have given him less than six months. The prison chaplain has advised his family members to come “very soon” to say their final goodbyes. Shakur may not even be able to recognize them.
Per reports from prison staff, he is “hallucinating,” “confused,” at times “unintelligible,” needs assistance with all so-called “Activities of Daily Living,” and is “frequently incontinent.” The details of his condition were revealed by medical professionals and Shakur’s family members in an emergency motion for compassionate release.
Jomo Muhammad of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement told NewsOne that Shakur had been denied parole nine times despite spending essentially infraction-free decades in prison. He also explained that Shakur petitioned for compassionate release earlier in the pandemic, given the various health issues and being diagnosed with an advanced stage of terminal cancer. Yet he was denied essentially because his judge did not think his condition was severe enough to justify release.
Scholar-activist Dr. Akinyele Umoja, a professor and co-founder of the New African People’s Organization and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, stated,“It clearly makes him a political prisoner that keeps him incarcerated due to his ideas,” Umoja explained. “Even though he had a model record.”
Umoja stressed the political nature of Shakur’s continued incarceration, given the reasons for denying his parole involved signing letters in correspondence with references to resistance claiming that made him dangerous.
He said the one infraction in Shakur’s file relates to his speaking by phone with a California university in a conversation that included actor Danny Glover. During the course of conversation, Shakur advocated for a Truth and Reconciliation process like what happened in South Africa, consistent with his advocacy for human rights in the U.S. and abroad.
Both Muhammad and Umoja urged people to sign the petition demanding the release of Mutulu Shakur. As of this article’s publishing, the petition has over 61,000 signatures, with a goal of 75,000.
Information in this article was obtained via San Francisco Bay View.