PARIS – The Paris city council has named Pennsylvania death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted for the 1981 slaying of a Philadelphia police officer, as an honorary citizen of Paris.
The show of solidarity with Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and journalist, came in a vote Tuesday in the wake of the Nov. 21 decision by a Philadelphia court to reject his plea for a new trial.
Jean Vuillermoz, leader of the Communist Party grouping on the council, said the decision by the council follows "alarming news" about Abu-Jamal.
"His appeals have been rejected and the question of his execution has resurfaced," Vuillermoz said.
Vuillermoz said Pablo Picasso was the last person to receive the title, which is only symbolic, in 1971.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe ruled Nov. 21 that she does not have jurisdiction over Abu-Jamal's petition for a new trial, scuttling his hopes for another round of appeals in state courts.
Abu-Jamal exhausted the state appeals process two years ago, but a petition filed in September argued that the defense had new evidence to clear him, including a confession by a man named Arnold Beverly.
Abu-Jamal's former lawyers, Leonard Weinglass and Daniel R. Williams, said they thought the confession was not credible and a federal judge refused to order Beverly to testify on Abu-Jamal's behalf. Dembe dismissed the value of the confession.
At a press conference Wednesday organized by French human rights groups, Senator Daniele Bidard criticized the judge's decision, saying "it's absolutely abhorrent that a technical issue can block a review of the trial."
Human rights groups have scheduled a demonstration in support of Abu-Jamal in front of the U.S. embassy in Paris on Saturday.