A U.S. federal court has temporarily blocked the order for the immediate release of Albert Woodfox, the last member of the Angola Three still behind bars for a crime he says he did not commit.
The suspension put on Woodfox's release comes just one day after a federal judge ruled for his “unconditional” freedom, which his lawyers welcomed as the “only just rememedy” for Woodfox's 43 years spent in solitary confinement.
Woodfox's conviction for the alleged 1972 murder of a prison guard has already been overturned twice. The order for his release blocked a third trial for the murder charge for which Woodfox has claimed innocence for over 40 years and which supporters have said was retaliation against his prison activism as a member of the Black Panther Party.
"Mr. Woodfox is the last remaining member of the Angola 3, three men consigned to solitary confinement for a combined total of 113 years"— _ (@rrrca) June 10, 2015
Louisiana Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell appealed district Judge James Brady's release order on the grounds that Woodfox is guilty of murder and should stay in prison.
"We are hopeful that the Court of Appeals will grant this stay, for the sake of the families of his victims and the multiple juries and grand juries that independently determined that this inmate should be held accountable for his multiple crimes," AP reported Caldwell spokesman Aaron Sadler said.
Woodfox's attorneys countered the appeal, saying in a statement there was “nothing arbitrary” about the “carefully considered” ruling, noting that a valid conviction could not be secured against Woodfox on two occasions, due to findings of racial bias and lack of evidence.
Prison reform activists celebrated the announcement of Woodfox's immediate release, but will now have to wait until Friday to know whether the release will go through or if the stay will be granted. According to Woodfox's attorneys, it remains unclear how soon he will be released if the appeal is denied.
The United Nations has called on all states to ban solitary confinement for periods longer than 15 days.
RELATED: teleSUR’s The Real USA on Solitary Confinement