News briefs


Amnesty backs new trial for Mumia

Amnesty International (AI) on February 17 called for a new trial for US political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal because his original trial was "deeply flawed".

After many years of monitoring the case and an exhaustive review of the original documents, AI concluded that the proceedings under which Abu-Jamal was tried, convicted and sentenced to death fail to reach the minimum international standards for fair trials. "Amnesty International has chosen this moment to publish the results of their painstaking review of the case because Abu-Jamal's life and the fairness of the judicial system are now, more than ever, in the balance", the organisation said.

"Given the contradictory and incomplete evidence in the trial transcript, Amnesty International cannot take a position on Abu-Jamal's guilt or innocence", AI said. "Nevertheless, Mumia Abu-Jamal's inadequate legal representation at his 1982 trial, the fact that the judge appeared more concerned with expediting the trial than with ensuring justice, the politicisation of the judicial process, and the possible bias of the appeal courts has led Amnesty International to conclude that only a new and fair trial could prevent the execution of a man who has not been proved guilty in a fair trial."

Colombian troops kill indigenous children

The Association of Councils and traditional authorities ASOU'WA and the Regional Indigenous Council in Colombia have denounced an army and police attack on 450 indigenous U'wa protesters on February 11.

The attack took place at Canoas, four kilometres from Gibraltar, North Santander, north-east Colombia — the site of US oil company Occidental Petroleum's proposed oil well. The people were peacefully occupying the site.

Without warning, the armed forces arrived by air and, using heavy machinery and tear gas, forced people to plunge into the Cubujon River. Three children drowned in the attack and several people remain missing.

Send letters of protest to: Dr Andres Pastrana, Presidente de la Republica de Colombia, Palacio de Nario, Bogota. Fax + 571 286 7434 or e-mail <>.

Britain overruled on Pinochet

The British High Court ruled on February 15 that British home secretary Jack Straw erred when he refused to disclose a medical report on General Augusto Pinochet. The court ordered the report to be made available to countries wishing to extradite the former Chilean dictator.

Pinochet's lawyers claim the general is "mentally unfit" to stand trial in Spain for mass murder, torture and human rights violations.

Russian workers strike

On February 5, 500 workers in the Astrakhan region of Russia went on strike to demand wages that have not been paid to them since last April and to protest against a 50% reduction in pay. The strike was organised by the independent trade union Zaschita. All the attempts to start a talks with representatives of local authorities have failed.

The region's vice-governor, an ex-member of Communist Party of the Russian Federation, has refused to meet with the workers' delegation and has sent riot police to deal with them. When Astrakhan's socialist Duma deputy Oleg Shein sent a letter to the finance ministry he was told that wage arrears will not be paid before the northern autumn, despite the promises of acting president Vladimir Putin.

Zaschita has appealed to workers' organisations and militants around the world to support the Astrakhan strikers. Send protest messages to: V. Putin, Kremlin, Moscow, Russia 103132. E-mail <>. For more information, visit <>.