Saturday, October 22, 2011

From The Partisan Defense Committee-Final Unraveling of S.F. 8 Frame-Up:Charges Against Francisco Torres Dismissed

Click on the headline to link to the Partisan Defense Committee website.

Workers Vanguard No. 988
14 October 2011

Final Unraveling of S.F. 8 Frame-Up:Charges Against Francisco Torres Dismissed

(Class-Struggle Defense Notes)

SAN FRANCISCO—On August 18, Superior Court judge Philip Moscone dismissed charges against Francisco Torres, bringing to an end a decades-long frame-up of the San Francisco 8 (SF8). Former members of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, the SF8—now ranging in age from their 50s to their 70s—were falsely charged for the 1971 killing of a San Francisco police officer. After previous attempts to prosecute them had fallen through, the eight were charged and dragged through the courts beginning in 2007. In resurrecting its vendetta against former black radicals, the capitalist state had a dual purpose: to settle the score against those who fought for black freedom over 40 years ago and to warn that such political activity would be treated as “domestic terrorism.”

The victory for Torres is a genuine setback for the rulers and their state. Charges against five of the defendants had already been dropped when prosecutors admitted that they had no evidence against them. Two others, Jalil Muntaqim and Herman Bell, made decisions to accept plea bargains with reduced charges of conspiracy and manslaughter. The two have languished in prison for decades in a separate frame-up conviction as part of the “New York 3” case (see “COINTELPRO Charges Dropped Against Four SF8 Defendants,” WV No. 941, 29 August 2009). Freedom for Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim!

The persecution of the SF8 was a continuation of the FBI’s COINTELPRO operation of the 1960s and ’70s, part of the government’s drive to destroy the Panthers through infiltration, repression and outright murder. The SF8 case was constructed on concealment and destruction of evidence, false testimony and outright police torture, such as a 1973 “interrogation” of three Panthers who were blindfolded and beaten for days and were shocked with electric cattle prods on their genitals and anuses. In 1975, a San Francisco judge threw out their “confessions” because they had been coerced through torture.

The eight were finally charged in January 2007 as one of Democrat Jerry Brown’s first acts as California state attorney general. This served Brown well when he later ran for governor and sought the support of the police and prison guards. Held on $3 million bail each, the SF8 were dragged into court in shackles and handcuffs during several months of pretrial hearings, painting a false portrait of the men as dangerous criminals. At a bail hearing in June 2007, the prosecutor argued to deny bail explicitly on the basis that these men had been members of the Panthers and/or the Black Liberation Army, claiming that their purpose was to “kill cops as a method of social change.” This lie has long been wielded by cops, courts and prosecutors to railroad Panthers to prison and even death row, as in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was falsely convicted for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia police officer.

Speaking at the Partisan Defense Committee’s 2009 Holiday Appeal fundraiser in New York for class-war prisoners, Francisco Torres stressed that “for those of you who still think these dirty tactics and COINTELPRO programs don’t exist…they still prevail and persist.” In defense of the SF8, supporters of the PDC and members of the Labor Black League for Social Defense attended hearings and rallies outside the courthouse sponsored by the Committee for Defense of Human Rights. In publicizing and protesting such frame-ups, we seek to instill the understanding that the labor movement and all fighters for black rights must take up the struggle against capitalist repression.

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