Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XV Number 10, October 2008


Thursday, October 23, 7:30 PM. Monthly 
Meeting. Caltech Y is located off San Pasqual 
between Hill and Holliston, south side. You will 
see two curving walls forming a gate to a path-
- our building is just beyond. Help us plan 
future actions on Sudan, the 'War on Terror', 
death penalty and more.

Tuesday, November 11, 7:30 PM. Letter 
writing meeting at Caltech Athenaeum, corner 
of Hill and California in Pasadena. This 
informal gathering is a great way for 
newcomers to get acquainted with Amnesty! 

Sunday, November 16, 6:30 PM. Rights 
Readers Human Rights Book Discussion Group. 
Vroman's Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., 
Pasadena.  This month we read "The Art of 
Political Murder" by Francisco Goldman.


Hi everyone,
Happy Halloween!
Group 22 members Lucas, Joyce, Stevi, Robert 
and Kathy tabled at the Caltech Club Fair in late 
September.  We got a lot of email sign-ups and 
hopefully will have some new people appearing 
at meetings!
The Amnesty International Western Regional 
Conference is being held at the Pasadena Hilton 
Nov 7-9. The registration form is available at: . 
Thanks to all who participated in the 3 workshops 
we've held to make items to sell at the conference.  
The conference theme is "Breaking Borders:  60 
Years of Human Rights" and the featured 
speaker will be Mia Kirshner, author of I Live 
Here. The film Jihad for Love will be shown at the 
In this newsletter we have another urgent action 
regarding the Troy Davis case.  His appeal to the 
US Supreme Court was rejected on October 14 
and a new execution date will be set for October 
27 or after.
And lastly, don't forget to vote!  We can't tell 
you how to vote but there are many groups such 
as the League of Women Voters that provide 
unbiased information.  
Con carino,

La Dolce Vita? Not for Estifanos!

The New York Times published a travel article on 
October 5 titled "Recalling La Dolce Vita in 
Eritrea." The article focused on the Art Deco 
architecture and cultural relics from the pre-
WWII Italian colonial era. The author touched 
only briefly on political repression and human 
rights violations. He quoted an Eritrean friend 
who has left the country: "The problem with 
Eritrea ... is that half of my friends are in prison 
and the other half put them there!" 
Group 22's adopted prisoner of conscience, 
Estifanos Seyoum, is one of those Eritreans who 
has been held incommunicado in secret prisons 
since his arrest in the major crackdown in 
September 2001.

Trish Hepner, our AIUSA Country Specialist for 
Eritrea, rebuked the author in a letter she wrote 
to the NY Times Travel Editor:

 "Like Jeffrey Gettleman (October 5, "Recalling La 
Dolce Vita"), I too have been charmed by Eritrea. 
Indeed, my career as an anthropologist has been 
entwined for more than a decade with this fascinating 
country. While it is a peculiar privilege of tourists to 
enjoy their vacation destinations while  not inquiring 
about impoverishment, political repression, or human 
rights violations, this should not be the case for 
journalists. Gettleman has produced hard-hitting 
pieces on the Horn of Africa in the past. I am shocked 
that he would fail to do so in Eritrea, where thousands 
of people languish in prison without charge or trial, 
among them journalists, religious minorities, and 
government reformers. While Gettleman enjoys his 
vacation, Amnesty International, Human Rights 
Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists and 
Eritreans of conscience struggle to draw attention to 
the crisis of human rights in Eritrea. I am pleased that 
he sees the beauty, resourcefulness, and strength of 
Eritrea and its people. I only wish he paid as much 
attention to the hardships and suffering Eritreans 
endure at the hands of an unjust government."

The NY Times article does contain some 
worthwhile insights into the history and 
worldview of the Eritrean people. To read the 
entire article, go to 
and search on Eritrea. Here is an excerpt about 
the Eritrean memorial of the war with Ethiopia:
 "Eritreans chose not to put up a statue of Mr. Isaias or 
some other famous man but of a pair of giant sandals 
-- yes, sandals. The shida sandal, a $3 black plastic 
shoe that is actually quite uncomfortable unless you're 
hiding in a bunker and have bigger worries, is the 
official symbol of the struggle. In the center of town is 
a pair of 20-foot-long sheet metal shidas. In the 1980s, 
Eritrean rebels built a mobile shida machine 
underground that survived countless bombings. The 
sandals became legendary."

This month let's write again to President Isayas, 
whom Gettleman describes as "tall, handsome 
and mustached", and remind him that we will 
not forget Estifanos and the other POCs. Postage 
to Eritrea is 94 cents. 

His Excellency
President Issayas Afewerki
Office of the President
P. O. Box 257
Asmara, Eritrea

Your Excellency,

Estifanos Seyoum and 10 other senior 
government officials and a number of 
independent journalists have been held 
incommunicado without charge or trial since 
2001. These detainees are prisoners of conscience, 
imprisoned for the peaceful expression of their 
political views. Some are alleged to have died 
while in detention because of torture and ill 
treatment and denial of medical care.

Aster Fissehatsion, Ahmed Sheriffo, Beraki 
Gebreselassie, Berhane Gebregziabeher, Haile 
Woldetensae, Hamad Hamid Hamad, Mahmoud 
Ahmed Sheriffo, Ogbe Abraha, Petros Solomon, 
Saleh Kekiya, and Estifanos Seyoum are not 
forgotten. I call upon the Eritrea authorities to 
make known their status.

I urge that the Eritrean government immediately 
release all those imprisoned in Eritrea solely 
because they peacefully expressed their opinions 
or beliefs. I call upon the Eritrea authorities to 
disclose the status of the thousands of 
individuals that are reportedly held in arbitrary 
detention and allow them access to their families 
and lawyers and medical care. Furthermore, it is 
imperative that the Eritrean government end the 
persecution and threats against the family 
members of prisoners of conscience detained in 

Thank you for your attention. 

[your name and address]

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting: 

Sunday, November 16, 6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Boulevard
 in Pasadena

"The Art of Political Murder"
By Francisco Goldman

Publisher Comments:

The first nonfiction book from acclaimed novelist 
Francisco Goldman, who began his career as a 
writer covering the 1980s wars in Central 
America for Harper's, The Art of Political Murder 
is the story of the murder investigation of a 
Guatemalan bishop with the twisting plot and 
colorful characters of a Graham Greene novel. 
Bishop Juan Gerardi, Guatemala's leading 
human rights activist, was bludgeoned to death 
in his garage on a Sunday night in 1998, two 
days after the presentation of a groundbreaking 
church-sponsored report implicating the military 
in the murders and disappearances of some two 
hundred thousand civilians. Realizing that it 
could not rely on police investigators or the legal 
system to solve the murder and bring those 
responsible to justice, the church formed its own 
investigative team, a group of secular young men 
in their twenties who called themselves Los 
Intocables (the Untouchables). Known in 
Guatemala as The Crime of the Century, the 
Bishop Gerardi murder case, with its 
unexpectedly outlandish scenarios and 
sensational developments, confounded observers 
and generated extraordinary controversy. For 
seven years, novelist Francisco Goldman has 
closely followed Los Intocables' efforts to 
uncover the truth; the killing or forced exile of 
multiple witnesses, judges, and prosecutors; the 
brave struggle of the church's legal team; and the 
efforts of one courageous prosecutor to solve the 
case and bring the killers to justice. Goldman has 
spoken to witnesses no other reporter has 
reached, and observed firsthand some of the 
most crucial developments in the case. Now he 
has produced a tense and astonishing true 
detective story that opens a window on the new 
Latin American reality of mara youth gangs and 
organized crime, and demonstrates, on the most 
human scale, the precarious struggle to build 
democratic institutions in a country awash in 
criminal and political corruption and violence. 
Most of all this is the story of a remarkable group 
of engaging, courageous young people, and of 
their remarkable fight for justice.

Author Biography  

He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to a 
Guatemalan mother and Jewish-American father. 
His first novel, The Long Night of White Chickens 
(1992), won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First 
Fiction and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner 
Award, and his second, The Ordinary Seaman 
(1997), was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner 
Award and The Los Angeles Times Book Prize, 
and was short-listed for the International IMPAC 
Dublin Literary Award. He currently resides in 
Mexico City and Brooklyn, New York. He also 
teaches at Trinity College (Connecticut). In 
November 2007, he acted as guest-fiction editor 
for Guernica Magazine. 
Goldman's most recent work, The Art of Political 
Murder: Who killed the Bishop? is a nonfiction 
account of the assassination of Guatemalan 
Catholic Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi Conedera, a 
crime perpetrated by the Guatemalan military. 
The book, an expansion on what began as an 
article in The New Yorker represents the 
culmination of years of journalistic investigation.
His wife Aura Estrada died in a surfing accident 
in Mexico in 2007.


Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed in 
Georgia at 7pm local time on 27 October. He has 
been on death row for 17 years for a crime he 
maintains he did not commit.  Troy Davis was 
convicted in 1991 of the murder of 27-year-old 
Officer Mark Allen MacPhail who was shot and 
killed in the car park of a Burger King restaurant 
in Savannah, Georgia on 19 August 1989. Troy 
Davis was also convicted of assaulting Larry 
Young, a homeless man, who was accosted 
immediately before Officer MacPhail was shot. 
At the trial, Troy Davis admitted that he had 
been at the scene of the shooting, but claimed 
that he had neither assaulted Larry Young nor 
shot Officer MacPhail. There was no physical 
evidence identifying Troy Davis as the gunman 
and the weapon used in the crime was never 
found. The case against him consisted of witness 
testimony. In affidavits signed over the years 
since the trial, a majority of the state's witnesses 
have recanted or contradicted their testimony. In 
addition, there is post-trial testimony implicating 
another man as the gunman.

In March 2008, the Georgia Supreme Court 
denied Troy Davis a new trial or a court hearing 
in which postconviction evidence could be 
presented. The Chief Justice of the state Supreme 
Court, joined by two other Justices, dissented 
from this decision, arguing that "In this case, 
nearly every witness who identified Davis as the 
shooter at trial has now disclaimed his or her 
ability to do so reliably. Three persons have 
stated that Sylvester Coles confessed to being the 
shooter. Two witnesses have stated that Sylvester 
Coles, contrary to his trial testimony, possessed a 
handgun immediately after the murder. Another 
witness has provided a description of the crimes 
that might indicate that Sylvester Coles was the 
shooter." The Chief Justice stated that "the 
collective effect of all of Davis's new testimony, if 
it were to be found credible by the trial court in a 
hearing, would show the probability that a new 
jury would find reasonable doubt of Davis's guilt 
or a least sufficient residual doubt to decline to 
impose the death penalty".

Troy Davis was less than two hours from 
execution on 23 September 2008 when the US 
Supreme Court issued a stay of execution to give 
it time to decide whether to hear his appeal 
against the Georgia Supreme Court's ruling.  The 
stay of execution was dissolved on 14 October 
when the Court announced that it had decided 
not to take the case. The State of Georgia 
immediately moved to set a new execution date.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has 
already rejected clemency for Troy Davis, and 
has indicated that it will not reconsider its 
decision. It has sole authority to grant executive 
clemency in Georgia capital cases.  Tens of 
thousands of people in the USA and around the 
world have appealed for executive clemency for 
Troy Davis. Among them are former US 
President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond 
Tutu and Pope Benedict XVI; the European 
Union, the European Parliament, and the 
Secretary General of the Council of Europe; 
former FBI Director William
Sessions, and former and current members of US 
Congress Bob Barr, Carol Moseley Braun and 
John Lewis.

International standards prohibit the execution of 
anyone whose guilt is in doubt. Amnesty 
International opposes Troy Davis's execution 
unconditionally, regardless of questions of guilt 
or innocence, as it does all use of the death 

Since the USA resumed executions in 1977, 1,125 
prisoners have been put to death, 43 of them in 
Georgia. In the same period, more than 100 
people have been released from death rows 
around the country on grounds of innocence, 
many of them in cases in which witness 
testimony has been shown to have been 
unreliable. Several prisoners have gone to their 
deaths despite doubts about their guilt.

In late 2007, the United Nations General 
Assembly adopted a landmark resolution calling 
for a global moratorium on executions. There 
have been 26 executions in the USA this year.

For a full report on Troy Davis's case, see USA: 
"Where is the justice for me?" The case of Troy 
Davis, facing execution in Georgia, February 2007,

send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:
- explaining that you are not seeking to condone 
the murder of Officer Mark Allen MacPhail, or to 
downplay the seriousness of the crime or the 
suffering caused;
- expressing deep concern that the State of 
Georgia has again set an execution date for Troy 
Davis despite continuing doubts about his guilt;
- calling on the Board to reconsider its decision 
not to grant clemency to Troy Davis, and to 
commute his death sentence.

State Board of Pardons and Paroles
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, SE, Suite 458
Balcony Level, East Tower
Atlanta, GA 30334-4909
Fax: 1 404 651 8502
Tel : 1 404 657 9350
Salutation: Dear Board members

Governor Sonny Perdue, Office of the Governor
Georgia State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Fax: 1 404 657 7332

Check with the AIUSA Urgent Action Office if 
sending appeals after 27 October 2008.

UAs     14
Eritrea  7
Total:	21
To add your letters to the total contact

Amnesty International Group 22
The Caltech Y
Mail Code 5-62
Pasadena, CA 91125