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Comrade Silvia Baraldini is free!

"Tonight I will go out for dinner. And I will come home lately. Now I feel like a grown-up." For the first time in the last 23 years Silvia Baraldini talked at September 26, 2006 as a free person to the journalists. Silvia Baraldini is a long-time political activist who served over 16 years in the U.S. prison system before being repatriated to Italy in 1999 to finish her sentence. The acts for which she was convicted were attempted robbery (which never took place) and aiding a prisoner escape.

Silvia was a student radical in the 1960's and 70's, fighting against racism, protesting the Vietnam War and demonstrating for women's rights. Later she campaigned for an end to apartheid and colonialism in Africa and, as a result, was invited to the inauguration of the new government in Zimbabwe. She worked to expose the FBI's illegal COINTELPRO program that spied on and harassed domestic political opponents. Silvia was an early supporter of the Black Panther Party and a member of the Committee to Free the Panther 21. All 21 defendents were acquitted of all charges. From prison, she has spoken tirelessly on behalf of Mumia Abu Jamal, the African-American radio journalist on death row in Pennsylvania.

The U.S. denies that it punishes people for their political beliefs. But Silvia fits every definition of a political prisoner. She received an incredible 40 year "racketeering" sentence for aiding in the escape of jailed Black Panther leader, Assata Shakur. Another three years were added when she refused to testify before a grand jury investigating the Puerto Rican independence movement.

"I was arrested in 1982 on RICO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations) charges, accused of having aided members of the Black Liberation Army in a conspiracy against the United States. In reality I participated in the escape of Black revolutionary Assata Shakur, who now lives in Cuba," Silvia states.

On August 24, 1999 she was transferred to Italy to serve the remainder of her sentence. The terms of the transfer called for her to remain in Italian prison until March 2008. In 2001, she was released on house arrest, permitted to work for the City of Rome between 9 a.m. to 2 p.m each day. Fortunately she was released on September 26, 2006, thanks to a pardon law approved in the previous months by the Italian Parliament.

In celebration of thís good news here is a musical collaboration between Assata Shakur and Asian Dub Foundation:

Assata Shakur & Asian Dub Foundation: "Reluctant Warrior"
(320 kbps)

Dub producer Pat Andrade had to travel to Cuba to record Assata Shakur´s spoken word performance on top of ADF´s music. Assata Shakur, just like many other radical Afro-Americans from the Black Panther Party or the Black Liberation Army, went into Cuban exile to avoid prosecution through US courts. Castro´s Cuba is the only country in the Americas that grants these people the status of political refugees. More than 25 years after the US government has destroyed progressive Afro-American organisations mostly, after the FBI has imprisoned and murderd their leaders, the US justice still wants revenge. In this song, she addresses American hip hop kids, who might have known her as the aunt of the assassinated rapper Tupac Shakur: "Every black person in America must, if he´s honest, admit, that he doesn´t know how it feels to be free."


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