Saturday, December 31, 2011

George Wright will not be Extradited

Portugal's Supreme Court Confirms Decision of
Lisbon Court's Refusal of US Extradition Demand

By Jürgen Heiser
Junge Welt: 29.12.2011

In the case of former US citizen, George Wright,
Portugal's Supreme Court ruled to deny an appeal
made by the US Justice Department, shortly before
Christmas. With its appeal, registered four weeks
ago, the USA was seeking the extradition of the
former Black Panther Party militant. A court in
Lisbon had already refused extradition, November
17, 2011. The court's refusal was based on
Wright's valid Portuguese citizenship. Wright has
been living with his Portuguese wife for more
than 20 years near Lisbon, under the name Jorge
Dos Santos and has two adult children. The
refusal was also based on the fact that, in the
meantime, the USA's penal claims have surpassed the
statute of limitations.

The Supreme Court found no legal error in this
reasoning and confirmed the extradition refusal.
"The Supreme Court has informed me today of its
decision," declared Wright's defense counsel,
Manuel Luis Ferreira, last Friday to Associated
Press. There were no further details from the
court, because, in Portugal, extradition cases
are conducted in secret. The USA has recourse to
appealing to Portugal's Constitutional Court. The
US Attorney General has not yet made his next step known.

Jorge Dos Santos, today 68 years old, was born
George Wright in Detroit, Michigan. In 1970, he
and three other inmates escaped from Bayside
State Prison in Leesburg, New Jersey, and joined
an underground political wing of the
Afro-American liberation movement. At the time of
his outbreak, he had served seven of a 15 - 30
year sentence for a robbery of $70 in 1962. The
gas station owner, Walter Patterson, was shot and
killed by an accomplice, who was subsequently
sentenced to "life." He has long since been freed.

The Wright case, the FBI's high-profile manhunt
target, made international headlines, when he was
tracked down in Portugal, at the end of
September, following his 41 year-long odyssey
through the USA, Africa, and Europe.

Since his arrest, the Justice Department has not
been the only one to exert pressure on Portuguese
authorities, to have Wright extradited to serve
the remainder of his sentence. Politicians, such
as Senator Frank Lautenberg (Dem. NJ) have
directly intervened to the government. "George
Wright is guilty of the murder of Walter
Patterson," writes Lautenberg in his dispatch to
the Portuguese Prime Minister, Passos Coelho,
"and has yet to serve out his full sentence for
that heinous crime in the United States."

In his letter, Lautenberg omits that the
19-year-old Wright, at the time, was only an
accomplice and had accepted the prosecutor's
plea-bargain. With his acceptance not to defend
himself against the charge, he sought to avoid
being sentenced to death. Had he not been under
the threat of the death penalty and had had an
appropriate defense counsel, he would not have
had to escape from prison in 1970. He would have
received a short sentence and been freed on parole
already within a few years.

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