To the Editors:
I will appreciate your publishing the enclosed open letter to Prime Minister Erie Williams of Trinidad from the Ad Hoc Committee for Abdul Malik.
Dear Dr. Williams,
We are American writers concerned about the fate of Abdul Malik, also called Michael X, who awaits death by hanging following his conviction for murder.
At this distance from the events of the case, not having been present at Mr. Malik’s trial, we do not presume to pronounce judgment upon his guilt or innocence in the murder he has been found guilty of committing; however, for the reasons which follow, we urge you to show mercy in his case.
Abdul Malik was obviously tried in an atmosphere of popular fear and hostility which penetrated the courtroom. Supernatural evil powers were ascribed to him; a newspaper carried a picture of him with devil’s horns superimposed. Demonology was at issue. A juror known to be sympathetic to him was taken suddenly and violently ill.
Some of the writers who knew Mr. Malik in England and America have described him as a disciple of the late Malcolm X and as an impassioned spokesman for the welfare and pride of his race. His book Letters from Michael de Freitas to Malcolm X was published in England and his poetry has appeared in various publications in the British Commonwealth and the United States.
We protest the inhumane conditions in which Mr. Malik is awaiting capital punishment. He is confined in a cell in which week after week he is forced to see and hear at close proximity the horror of other prisoners going to the scaffold, the cries and screams of relatives, the seizing and bathing, the dressing in white and the hanging. Now we understand that his death will take place in February but that the date will be disclosed to him only twenty-four hours in advance.
The punishment of Mr. Malik and his fellow prisoners is psychological torture; it is “cruel and unusual”; Trinidad’s constitution specifically prohibits such punishment, as does our own.
We know that many others have appealed to you to save the life of Abdul Malik, among them Roy Wilkins of the NAACP; Dick Gregory; Robert Gottlieb, President of Alfred Knopf; Heinrich Böll, International President of P.E.N.; American P.E.N.; Amnesty International, to name a few. We are certain that many more who will learn only now of his case will join them and us in this plea that in the interests of justice and humanity you reprieve Abdul Malik and show mercy toward him.
Henry Carlisle, Olga Andreyev Carlisle, Francine Gray, Muriel Rukeyser, Harrison Salisbury, Rose Styron, and William Styron
February 21, 1974