Gov. James Hunt will go on statewide television today to announce a decision on pardoning or reducing sentences of the Wilmington 10, whose case has drawn attention internationally and become politically volatile at home.
Amnesty International which last year won the Nobel Peace Prize, has called the Wilmington 10 "prisoners of conscience." The Soviet government has cited the case as an example of human rights violations in the United States. The East German press has sent representatives to North Carolina to report on the case, and rallies have been held in Paris and East European cities as well as the United States in support of the defendants.
In North Carolina, petitions have been circulated urging the first-term Democratic governor not to intervene, leaving the defendants to serve out their sentences.
The case arose out of the 1971 firebombing of a grocery store during racial disturbances in Wilmington, a city of about 45,000.
The Rev. Benjamin Chavis and eight other young back Wilmington men were convicted of the firebombing and conspiracy to fire on emergency personnel during the strife. A white woman, since paroled, was convicted of being an accessory.
The three key prosecution witnesses, all black, have since said that they gave false testimony because of threats of reprisals or offers of favors.