RT has become the first TV channel in the world to speak to former journalist and Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal since he was removed from death row in January. Abu-Jamal will spend his life behind bars for killing a police officer in 1981.
Considered by many to be a flagrant miscarriage of justice, the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal has gained much attention worldwide. The defense claimed Abu-Jamal is innocent of the charges as the testimony of the prosecution's witnesses was not reliable. For decades, supporters have rallied behind him.
After spending almost 30 years on death row, Abu-Jamal told RT?s Anastasia Churkina that ?The truth is I spent most of my living years in my lifetime, on death row. So, in many ways, even to this day, in my own mind, if not in fact, I?m still on death row.?
RT:If you were not behind bars and could be anywhere else in the world, where would you be?? and what would you be doing?
Mumia Abu-Jamal: Since my earliest years I was what one would call an internationalist. That is paying attention to what is happening in other parts of the world. As an internationalist I am thinking about life lived by other people all around the world. Of course as an African American I would love to spend some time in parts of Africa. But it is also true that I have many friends and loved ones in France. I would really like to bring my family, my wife and kids to come see our street in Paris.
RT: Being behind bars you seem to be watching world affairs much closer than most people who are free to walk the streets. Which event of the last 30 years would you like to be a part of, if you could?
MAJ: I think the first would probably be the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Because of course once being South African, it was also global, because it was the touch point of white supremacy versus the freedom and dignity of African people. So South Africa would be a logical first choice.
But wherever the people are fighting for freedom, that wins my eye and gets my attention and moves my passion.
RT:You turn 56 at the end of the month, which means you will have to spend more than half of your life behind bars. Most people cannot even begin to imagine that. What is it like? How has it changed you?
MAJ: The point and fact is I have spent most of my life, the bigger percentage of my life on death row. And it cannot but have had a profound effect on consciousness and on the way one sees and interacts with the world. I like to tell myself that I actually spent a lot of that time beyond the bars, in other countries and in other parts of the world. Because I did so mentally. But mental can only take you so far. The truth of the matter is that I spent most of my living years in my lifetime on death row. So, in many ways, even to this day, in my own mind, if not in fact, I am still on death row.
RT: Your story has really become a symbol for many of a flawed justice system. Do you personally have any faith left in a fair and free justice system? Considering your life has been so much affected by it?
MAJ: When I was a teenager and in the Black Panther party I remember I was going to downtown Manhattan and protesting against political imprisonment and incarceration and threats facing Angela Davis? When Davis attacked the prison system, she talked about perhaps 250,000 or 300,000 people imprisoned throughout all the US as a problem to be dealt with, a crisis, a situation that bordered on fascism. Fast forward 30-40 years to the present, today more than 300,000 prisoners in California alone, one state out of fifty. The imprisonment in California alone exceeds that of France, Belgium and England ? I could name 4-5 countries combined.
We could not conceive back then of what it would become. It is monstrous when you really look at what is happening today. You can literally talk about millions of people incarcerated by the prisoner-industrial complex today: men, women and children. And that level of mass incarceration, really mass repression, has to have an immense impact in effect on our community, not just among families, but on the social and communal consciousness way, and an inculcation of fear among generations.
As a member of the Black Panther organization, Abu-Jamal had the FBI keeping an eye on him since he was 14. Since the introduction of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that allows American officials to watch, detain and hold people in the US, Big Brother is all but becoming a reality.?
?The so-called Patriot Act has made everything that was illegal back in the 1950s-1970s ? they have legalized it. They legalized the very things that the FBI agents and administrative knew was criminal back then. That means they can look in your mail, tap your phone ? they do all of that. What we?re living today is a national security state where Big Brother is legalized and rationalized.?