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News :: Globalization : Human Rights : International : Labor : Media : Organizing : Politics : Race : Social Welfare : War and Militarism
Another racist government frame-up unravels
14 Jul 2006
The case itself leaves no doubt that the seven men -- Narseal Batiste, Patrick Abraham, Stanley Grant Phanor, Naudimar Herrera, Burson Augustin, Lyglenson Lemorin, and Rotschild Augustine -- were set up by a government agent bent on sustaining public fears of "Islamic Terrorism" in the service of US imperialist wars.
Another racist government frame-up unravels: but the Liberty City Seven are still not free

by Fred Bergen

Remember the weapons of mass destruction? No, not the US doomsday stockpile of nearly ten thousand nuclear bombs. On August 26, 2002, vice president Dick Cheney told the Veterans of Foreign Wars, "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." On September 18, 2002, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee that "We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons. His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons—including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas." On March 16, 2003, Dick Cheney told NBC's Meet the Press that "We believe [Saddam Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." President Bush said on March 17, 2003, "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

We know now that these were all lies, that the only "weapons of mass destruction" that Iraq ever had were those given to it by the Saddam regime's international sponsor during the Iran-Iraq war: the United States. Yet the Democrat and Republican war criminals who sold the big lie to the public are still free, and the Iraqi people are suffering and dying every day under a racist foreign occupation.

The people of the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami have known a similar kind of racist occupation for decades. Liberty City, home of Miami Heat all-star power forward Udonis Haslem, is an extremely poor, mostly black working class neighborhood of Miami, Florida. In the early morning of December 17, 1979, Miami police beat to death Arthur McDuffie, an unarmed black motorcyclist. The officers' acquittal by an all-white jury on May 17, 1980 provoked a rebellion that was put down by 3,500 national guard troops.

In 1982 two police officers shot and killed 20 year old black man Nevel Johnson Jr. without provocation in a pool hall and video arcade in nearby Overton. The armed state forces repressed popular rebellions, after the murder and again after the acquittal of one of the officers.

On January 16, 1989 (Martin Luther King Day), 23 year old black man Clement Lloyd was shot to death by a police officer as he drove past the officer on his motorcycle. Passenger Allan Blanchard, a 24 year old native of the Virgin Islands, died from trauma resulting from the crash that followed. Three days of rebellion broke out, and the officer, William Lozano, was convicted of manslaughter. In 1993 his conviction was overturned on appeal.

These are only the most prominent cases of police brutality in one region of greater Miami, Florida, incidents in a brutal occupation of black communities across the US, an occupation that the US military exports to every continent of the world.

When the FBI trumpeted the indictment of seven alleged terrorist conspirators from Liberty City on June 22, this history alone should be cause for extreme skepticism of the government's claims. The case itself leaves no doubt that the seven men -- Narseal Batiste, Patrick Abraham, Stanley Grant Phanor, Naudimar Herrera, Burson Augustin, Lyglenson Lemorin, and Rotschild Augustine -- were set up by a government agent bent on sustaining public fears of "Islamic Terrorism" in the service of US imperialist wars. Five of the seven men are African-American, and the other two are Haitian.

The government says that they conspired to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago, and other government buildings. What is the evidence of the "conspiracy", that FBI deputy director John Pistole himself labelled "more aspirational than operational" in a news conference announcing the sting? What little there is rests on the word of one FBI provocateur, who infiltrated the group claiming to be an Al Quaida representative. The FBI admits that the seven never actually contacted Al Quaida.

The anonymous FBI provocateur says that the seven requested weapons, supplies, and money. He says that he administered an Al Quaida "loyalty oath" to the seven. The indictment reveals that no weapons were found in the Liberty City warehouse that was allegedly the seven's headquarters, or anywhere else. The FBI provocateur admits to providing the plotters with these incriminating items: a camera and some boots. The FBI claims that the seven were in a heterodox muslim-christian religious study group that allegedly denied the authority of the federal government.

The absurd flimsiness of the government's case didn't stop a federal judge from denying bail on July 6, until their trial. And it hasn't stopped the capitalist media from eagerly filling its well-practiced role as lynch-mob agitator. But Wolf Blitzer ran into problems on the June 23 "Situation Room" show on CNN, when he tried to make hay out of the alleged alias of Mr. Phanor, a construction worker. The government indictment claims that Phanor went by the name of "Brother Sunni" (as in Sunni Muslim). Mr. Phanor's sister, Marlene Phanor, set the record straight:

BLITZER: Marlene, what was the first thing that went through your mind when you heard this allegation that your brother is a terrorist?

MARLENE PHANOR ...: It didn't panic me. It didn't scare me. It didn't really shake me up or nothing because I know it's false accusations.

BLITZER: Is your brother a Muslim?

PHANOR: No, sir. He's not a Muslim. He's a Catholic. ...

BLITZER: How do you think he got caught up in this alleged conspiracy?

PHANOR: Well -- I don't know what was their plans, I don't know what their meetings used to be, but it never came about terrorists, it never came about bombing, it never came about anything in that such way.

All I know, my brother tried to help the community. The temple where they doing their meetings and everything at, that temple was for them to have all their meetings, and to get together and help the community.

BLITZER: Was that temple a Muslim temple?

PHANOR: I'm not sure, but I know my brother is a Catholic.

BLITZER: Why did -- does the government say he is also known as Brother Sunni?

PHANOR: Well, no all call themselves brothers. ...

BLITZER: Did you ever hear your brother being called Sunni?

PHANOR: Yes, that's his nickname. It's not Sunni, it's sunny, like, is it a sunny day. ... That's his nickname ever since birth.

FBI frame-up artists at work: the case of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman

On January 17, 1996, the Egyptian Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, blind and suffering from diabetes, and nine other Arabs were sentenced to life or to 25 to 57 year terms. The crime? "Seditious Conspiracy", a civil-war era crime that does not involve any action, only thoughts and words. The FBI claimed that the men were planning to bomb the UN building and bridges and tunnels around New York City. They were never charged with the 1993 truck-bombing of the World Trade Center, but the prosecution repeatedly referenced this attack as an emotional ploy to the jury and the general public.

What was the evidence? Again, wholly created by the government. The FBI paid Emad Salem, a former intelligence officer for the Egyptian military, one million dollars to recruit the ten defendants, meet with them in a bugged warehouse, propose all the plans of the so-called "conspiracy", and provide the necessary equipment. The supposed ringleaders, Sheik Rahman and El Sayyid A. Nosair, were never present at the warehouse; Nosair was in prison for the whole time of the supposed "conspiracy". The government admitted that none of the men knew how to make bombs.

The show-trial conviction spurred Congress to pass president Clinton's "Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996", which trampled on the rights of death row inmates, mostly poor black men, to due process and habeas corpus. In signing the bill, president Clinton referenced the 1993 bombing, but criticized Congress for not giving him enough authority to spy on phone conversations with no or little legal justification: a practice for which Clinton's successor, president Bush, has become infamous.

Little noticed during Rahman's trial was the testimony of Frederic Whitehurst, the FBI's leading explosives witness. He said that prosecutors pressured the FBI explosives laboratory to get forensics results that helped the prosecution case. FBI documents later leaked to the Los Angeles Times confirmed that the FBI lab is a frame-up evidence factory.

No justice in the capitalist courts

The Liberty City Seven will not get a fair trial. From arrest to sentencing and appeals, the entire system of criminal "justice" is stacked against defendants who are working class and oppressed. The government will sell this case to the jury just as it has to the public: as a part of the ongoing and ever-changing justification for the global imperialist adventure and repressive attack on democratic rights called the "war on terror".

Since revolutionary journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal was sentenced to death on July 3, 1982, framed for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, evidence of his innocence has only grown. Yet Mumia is still on death row. Those who call for a "new trial" for Mumia only show that they have learned nothing from his persecution and frame-up at the hands of the racist state the first time around. Mumia is an innocent man, and nothing less than freedom will do!

The black community of Miami rose up in heroic struggle against the racist regime of police brutality many times. But their efforts ended in defeat every time becuase they were isolated by an almost total lack of solidarity from the nationwide labor movement. The "war on terrorism" is an attack on workers of all nationalities. It is an attack on our right to organize, to speak out, and to protest. Government unions were summarily busted by Congress with the passage of the "Homeland Security" act. Dockworkers have been shot at by riot cops and threatened with strike-breaking by the national guard. The racist anti-immigrant campaign coming from Washington, saturated with slanderous innuendo about terrorism and drug-smuggling, is leading to the creation of a semi-enslaved caste of temporary "guest workers" with no union rights. And the costs of the billions in daily profits reaped by the military industries for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are being used to justify the repeal of social security, medicare, and medicaid.

The unions should call emergency membership meetings to discuss the Liberty City 7 case and its implications for the labor movement. Mass, united front actions need to be organized in every city to demand that these racist frame-up charges be dropped. As the old labor slogan goes, an injury to one is an injury to all! Drop the charges, free the Liberty City Seven now!
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