26th May 2007
Friday 25th May marked the first International Day of Solidarity in support of John Bowden and in defence of the ABC. John is a long-term prison resister, who has spent more than a quarter of a Century fighting for prisoners’ rights, and is now being kept in jail because of his politics rather than because of his original conviction.
Until very recently John was in an open prison at Castle Huntly in Scotland. He had spent two years working unsupervised in the outside community as a volunteer on projects for the mentally ill and socially vulnerable, and had qualified as a literacy tutor for people with learning difficulties. For almost a year he had also been allowed frequent home leaves, and was not regarded as any form of risk to the public. All this changed however, when Matt Stillman, a right-wing American social-worker (who for example, insists on calling Irish people ‘Micks’), accused John of having links with a ‘paramilitary’ and ‘terrorist’ organisation – namely the Anarchist Black Cross (ABC), in reality a legitimate prisoner support organisation that can trace its history back to Tsarist Russia. This easily refuted lie was used as an excuse to move John to a maximum security prison at Glenochil, and damaging allegations (Stillman’s lies) hang over him, which we believe are specifically designed to prejudice the parole board and prevent John’s release.
Since Stillman launched his smear against the ABC, eagerly taken up by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), who ‘ghosted John to Glenochil, a campaign has been launched to demand ‘Hands Off John Bowden!’ And to defend the good name of the ABC.
The focus of yesterday’s International Day of Solidarity was the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, where more than 25 of John’s supporters demonstrated for nearly 2 hours, demanding a full and swift investigation and an apology for the lies that have been told. Supporters came from various parts of Scotland and England to attend the demonstration, and from as far as the Basque country. Hundreds of leaflets were distributed in support of John, with placards and a large banner demanding an end to the harassment he is enduring and to the vilification of the ABC.
A statement, specially written by John Bowden for the demonstration reads: “I am currently isolated in a maximum security prison and being denied release because of my association with the Anarchist Black Cross movement. That movement has been labelled as “terrorist” by an employee of the Scottish Prison Service, which represents an attempt by the state to evoke a mood of outright repression against the ABC and a policy of indefinite imprisonment against me. I am grateful for the support and solidarity shown by people attending this demonstration and am with you there in spirit.
As part of the ongoing support campaign, a large stack of postcards were delivered to the headquarters of the Scottish Prison Service, and these flooded in by post from all over the world, as did faxes, telephone calls, and e-mails. Glenochil prison had to set up a special system to divert incoming calls in support of John Bowden, and the SPS closed their headquarters early at 4.00pm.
Around the world, from Japan to the USA, supporters of John picketed British consulates and embassies, organised phone and fax blockades, and held info meetings and mass card signings.
In the coming weeks, until the Scottish Prison Service withdraw the allegations against John Bowden and the ABC, we urge supporters to show their solidarity and continue to put pressure on the SPS liars. Please publicise your actions and events.
In London there will be a solidarity demonstration on the 8th June in support of John Bowden’s parole application.
Thank you to everyone who has seen through the state’s lies to support John Bowden and defend the Anarchist Black Cross.
Some Ways You Can Help:
Find out more at: www.myspace.com/friendsofjohnbowden
Send a postcard reading ‘Hands Off John Bowden!’ to Scottish Prison Service HQ, Communications Branch, Room 338, Calton House, 5 Redheughs Rigg, Edinburgh, EH12 9HW. You can also e-mail them at email@example.com Phone them on 01259 760471. Or fax them at 01259 762003.
Write to Glenochil prison, where John is being held: Audrey Parks, Governor, HMP Glenochil, King O' Muir Road, Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, FK10 3AD. Telephone: 01259 760471. Fax: 01259 762003.
Complain to the Care Commission about the lies being told by Matt Stillman, who is employed by Perthshire Social Services: The Care Commission, Headquarters, Compass House, 11 Riverside Drive, Dundee, DD1 4NY. Telephone: 01382 207100. Fax: 01382 207289.
Send John a card or letter of support: John Bowden, 6729, HMP Glenochil, King O' Muir Road, Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, FK10 3AD.
Become involved in the support campaign for John by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org