WASHINGTON (AFP) – A US appeals court ordered a new sentencing hearing Tuesday death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, without overturning the guilty verdict of the man who has become a cause celebre for death penalty opponents.


The court in Pennsylvania ruled that Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther who has languished on death row for nearly 30 years, must have a new sentencing hearing within the next six months.

The 57-year-old African American was sentenced to death in 1982 after being found guilty in the murder of a white policeman -- a crime he has always denied committing.

The same court that issued Tuesday's ruling suspended Abu-Jamal's death penalty sentence in 2008, leading to three years of court challenges that including an intervention by the US Supreme Court.

The Pennsylvania appeals court set aside Abu-Jamal's death sentence over procedural irregularities during his trial, finding that the jury mistakenly had been led to believe that it could not consider mitigating factors against a death sentence.

Abu-Jamal and his supporters claim that the guilty verdict against him was predetermined because he was an African-American and a member of the radical leftist Black Panthers movement.

A writer and president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists at the time of his arrest, he has continued to write from death row.