Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes Albert Woodfox on the occasion of his release from prison after 45 years, including 43 years of torturous solitary confinement, in Angola Prison in Louisiana.
Woodfox was the last remaining imprisoned member of the Angola 3, along with Herman Wallace and Robert King, who organized a section of the Black Panther Party in the Angola Prison challenging horrific racism, segregation and systematic corruption and abuse in the prison, built on an 18,000-acre former slave plantation.
They organized hunger strikes and work stoppages within the prison. The three were thrown in solitary confinement in 1972, accused of involvement in the 1972 killing of a prison guard, despite no physical evidence and only one discredited, bribed witness. After years of struggle, King was freed in 2001 and Wallace in 2013 – who died just four days after being released from prison.
Woodfox’s conviction was overturned three times, and a federal judge ordered his immediate release – yet the state of Louisiana attempted again and again to deny his freedom. It refused to release him from solitary confinement, with Warden Burl Cain quoted as saying that “I still know that he is still trying to practice Black Pantherism, and I still would not want him walking around my prison because he would organize the young new inmates.”
On 19 February, his 69th birthday, Woodfox finally walked free from Angola prison. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes his victory, steadfastness and constant struggle through 45 years of racist torture. We demand the immediate release of all political prisoners in US prisons, including all of Woodfox’s fellow Black Panther and Black Liberation political prisoners including Mumia Abu-Jamal, Russell Maroon Shoatz, Mutulu Shakur and nearly 20 fellow prisoners, Oscar Lopez Rivera, Leonard Peltier, and the Holy Land Five.
Photos via Andy Stepanian.
We reproduce below the statement of the International Campaign to Free the Angola 3:
Just moments ago, Albert Woodfox, the last remaining member of the Angola 3 still behind bars, was released from prison 43 years and 10 months after he was first put in a 6×9 foot solitary cell for a crime he did not commit. After decades of costly litigation, Louisiana State officials have at last acted in the interest of justice and reached an agreement that brings a long overdue end to this nightmare. Albert has maintained his innocence at every step, and today, on his 69th birthday, he will finally begin a new phase of his life as a free man.
In anticipation of his release this morning, Albert thanked his many supporters and added: “Although I was looking forward to proving my innocence at a new trial, concerns about my health and my age have caused me to resolve this case now and obtain my release with this no-contest plea to lesser charges. I hope the events of today will bring closure to many.”
Over the course of the past four decades, Albert’s conviction was overturned three separate times for a host of constitutional violations including prosecutorial misconduct, inadequate defense, racial discrimination in the selection of the grand jury foreperson, and suppression of exculpatory evidence. On June 8th, 2015, Federal Judge James Brady ordered Albert’s immediate release and barred the State from retrying Albert, an extraordinary ruling that he called “the only just remedy.” A divided panel of the 5th Circuit Court of appealsreversed that order in November with the dissenting Judge arguing that “If ever a case justifiably could be considered to present ‘exceptional circumstances’ barring re-prosecution, this is that case.” That ruling was on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court when news of his release broke.
On behalf of the Angola 3 – Albert Woodfox, Robert King, and in memory of Herman Wallace – we would like to sincerely thank all the organizations, activists, artists, legal experts, and other individuals who have so graciously given their time and talent to the Angola 3’s extraordinary struggle for justice. This victory belongs to all of us and should motivate us to stand up and demand even more fervently that long-term solitary confinement be abolished, and all the innocent and wrongfully incarcerated be freed.