On Saturday, a jury convicted Muslim cleric and former Black Panther Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, formerly known as H. RapBrown, of killing one sheriff’s deputy and wounding another in a shootout in Atlanta in March 2000. Jurorsdeliberated 10 hours over two days before finding Al-Amin guilty of 13 counts, including murder, aggravated assaulton a police officer, obstruction, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Jurors will decide this weekwhether to sentence the Muslim spiritual leader to death, life with parole, or life in prison.
Al-Amin’s lawyers argued that Al-Amin is innocent of the shooting. They say Al-Amin’s fingerprints were not found onthe murder weapon, and he was not wounded in the shooting, as one of the deputies said the shooter was. The deputyalso said his eyes were gray. They are brown. His lawyers and supporters say it’s a case of mistaken identity, andthat the government has been out to get him for several decades.
As a young man, the black activist known to the media as H. Rap Brown epitomized the revolutionary Black Panthermovement of the sixties and seventies. In 1967, at the age of 23, he became chairman of the Student NonviolentCoordinating Committee, the direct action group associated with Martin Luther King. Those were the days of Cointelproand J Edgar Hoover’s infamous FBI programs that targeted a wide net of dissidents, particularly African Americanactivists. In Al-Amin’s autobiography, called ??Die, Nigger, Die! he says he spent most of his days as SNCCchairman in jail, in court or out on bond.
In 1971, Brown went to jail, converted to orthodox Islam, and changed his name to Jamil Al-Amin. Since then he hasbecome a well-respected imam in his Muslim community. But his story doesn’t stop there. After the 1993 bombing of theWorld Trade Center, Imam Al-Amin was arbitrarily hauled in, interrogated and released under heavy and continuoussurveillance despite the absence of any evidence connecting him to the bombing. It is a story that has become all toofamiliar since September 11th. His trial was postponed after September 11 because the judge feared anti-Muslimsentiment would taint the jury pool.
- Ekweme Michael Thelwell, professor of black studies at the University of Massachusetts and author of apiece in the Nation magazine called "H Rap Brown/Jamil Al-Amin: A Profoundly American Story." He is a formerStudent Nonviolent Coordinating Committee field secretary and acquaintance of H Rap Brown for many years.
- Ed Brown, brother of Jamil al-Amin, who is at the trial all this week, speaking to us from a cellphoneoutside the courthouse.