Uhuru 3 legal counsel declares, “We’re building a bullet-proof defense!”

Leonard Goodman

Leonard Goodman – National Lawyers Guild conference, Chicago, IL, April 14, 2024— I want to appreciate the National Lawyers Guild for having us and for caring about this case. It really has not gotten any attention in the mainstream press, as you probably are not surprised about that.

It’s a very dangerous case, as Jesse Nevel told you – three U.S. citizens being criminally prosecuted by the U.S. government for political speech and dissent. The African People’s Socialist Party has been around for 50 years. Chairman Omali, the founder and leader, comes out of the SNCC movement of the 60s. They’re against colonialism. They’re against regime change wars and coups, including the 2014 coup in which the CIA helped overthrow the elected government of Ukraine and replace it with a more Western and NATO-friendly president.

They have a significant following. They have their own newspaper called The Burning Spear. They have a community radio station which possibly makes them more of a threat. They’re harder to censor because they can talk directly to their supporters. They have a fairly sizable following. Usually, it’s harder to censor them through Google and platforms like that because they have their own communication outlets.

They became a threat in the spring of 2022 while the United States was selling a new war, a proxy war, in Ukraine against Russia. While the United States was sending tens of billions of dollars, much of it to U.S. arms manufacturers and major campaign donors – General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon – during that time, Omali Yeshitela was making speeches, aimed in the indictment as “overt acts”.

He was making speeches describing Ukraine as a country armed to the teeth by the white colonizers, describing Ukraine as a dagger pointed right at the heart of Russia. And then, as you saw in the summer, July of 2022, FBI SWAT teams raided the Uhuru offices and the personal homes of its leaders, including my client Penny, Jesse, and Omali Yeshitela.

In April 2023, they were indicted under a rarely used federal statute, 18 U.S.C. 951, which makes it illegal to be a secret foreign agent in the United States. The overt acts in the indictment, I’ve never seen an indictment like this. All of the overt acts involve political speech: it’s either publishing articles or making speeches to their followers. The allegations that they’re Russian agents come from the fact that in 2015 some of the leaders of the African People’s Socialist Party participated in two seminars in Moscow as they’ve done in countries all over the world including Ireland, Spain and Africa.

The defendants are not Russian agents – they align with Russia in opposing Western colonialism and NATO expansion. They oppose Russia on other issues. All of this is well known to the government, but in a motion to dismiss, as you know, you have to argue that even if the allegations in the indictment are true, it’s still unconstitutional. You can’t prosecute someone – and there is a case that we rely on De Jong versus Oregon, I think it’s from 1937, and that’s a case where the Supreme Court struck down the conviction of a U.S. citizen who was speaking on behalf of the Communist Party.

The Supreme Court said the only question to ask in a case like this is whether the speech, “transcends the bounds of freedom of speech which the Constitution protects.” That is, is the speech inciting immediate lawlessness under the Brandenburg test? Is it obscenity? Is it a criminal speech perpetrating a fraud or an espionage? It’s conceded that no it’s not, this is pure political speech. If the content of the speech is protected then the relationship of the speaker – so in that case to the Communist Party or in our case to Russians, if it were true that we were Russian agents is irrelevant, it’s immaterial. All that matters is, is the speech protected?

To get around this case, the government is arguing – it’s an absurd argument – but this is the argument that they make: they say this is a content-neutral prosecution. They couldn’t care less about the content of speech and they compare it to content like a time, place and manner restriction where a town would say, “no loud speech making after 10 PM.”

They [claim] not to care about what you say, it’s only that you have to do it during reasonable hours. No objective person could believe this. The indictment itself directly accuses the defendants of “spreading Russian propaganda” and “disinformation”.

We’ve shown them that the content of their speeches were truthful and were identical to speeches made by prominent intellectuals such as Jeffrey Sachs and John Mearsheimer at University of Chicago, so the government has conceded, “well, when we say disinformation, that doesn’t mean it’s not true, it just means it aligns with Russia, and it’s helping Russia. So that’s what we call disinformation.”

The motion to dismiss is fully briefed. It’s before the district judge, and we’re hopeful that the judge will do the right thing and follow the law and decades of Supreme Court precedent. If they don’t, it’s going to be a very dangerous decision allowing this case to go forward. So thank you all for having us.


Mutaqee Akbar

Mutaqee Akbar – Hands Off Uhuru Webinar themed, “The Case of the Uhuru 3: All out for the Trial!” on March 30, 2024— I’m Mutaqee Akbar, and I’m also one of the attorneys on the case. This is probably one of the biggest cases of my career because of what it stands for, because of what we’re fighting for.

We’re fighting to protect the freedom of speech of not only the Uhuru 3, but anybody who dares to stand against imperialism and colonialism. And not only stand and speak against it, but to also build communities like the African People’s Socialist Party has been doing for 50 years. It’s not just the talk, it’s also the walk that’s a problem.

And visiting St. Louis (MO) and seeing the St. Petersburg (FL) radio station, a newspaper, the basketball courts, the community gardens, all of these things that’s being built by the African People’s Socialist Party. It’s a threat. I mean, it’s a threat to America. It’s a threat to U.S. independence. And to be bold enough to do these things and also speak out against war and everything is a reason to be attacked. And that’s what we’re seeing. We’re seeing an attack on the Party from the leadership on down.

We are here to fight against this attack. We understand that it’s not going to be an easy fight. We understand that we’re fighting against the government. We understand that ordinary people who walk in that court as jurors in September will be people who we will have to probably turn around. They’re going to come in and hear that, “these people dared to work with somebody who happened to be from Russia or even spoke to somebody who happened to be from Russia. These people dared to prepare a petition in order to speak out against the government and what they’ve been doing to black people since creation. These people dared to organize white people and have white people help fund this organization.”

All of these things go against what should be okay in a lot of people’s minds. I think we have to protect that freedom to do all of these things.

The legal team, Attorney Leonard Goodman, Attorney Ade Griffin, and myself, and a few other lawyers, have been working hard for over a year. It’s crunch time now, as we like to say as attorneys, to really put our heads down and really look at the facts and look at what we’re dealing with.

We expect to probably get more and more evidence as the case gets closer. We anticipate that it’s going to be a month-long trial. For an entire month, we’ll literally be at war. Not only defending the Uhuru 3 but also, like we’ve been saying the whole time, putting the government to trial as well.

What our hope is at the end of this is not only to win the case, but to also make sure that they don’t do this to anybody else – they don’t do this to any other organization and they would allow people, no matter what the beliefs are, no matter what the thoughts are, to do what they have to do.

We appreciate the support, the prayers and the encouragement. It’s not an easy thing to do but we appreciate it all and we’ll continue to fight for, not only the Uhuru 3 but what this organization and so many other organizations like this stand for.

Uhuru!

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