MAY 17, 2000 In 1975, two FBI agents were killed in a shootout on the Oglala Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Of the three men charged, only one was convicted, a Turtle Mountain Ojibwe/Lakota man, Leonard Peltier. He has served 24 years of his two life term sentence so far. Peltier supporters have long held that the evidence against him is faulty and fabricated. But Peltier has been unable to have his case reheard or overturned. Instead, recent efforts have focused on obtaining clemency for the 55-year old man, whose health has been failing. Peltier underwent jaw surgery in March. The clemency campaign began picking up steam last year and continues today during a conference hosted by the Leonard Peltier Justice Coalition and Amnesty International, who consider Peltier a political prisoner. Among those expected to speak is Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchu. Menchu, a Quiche Mayan woman well known for her humanitarian work with indigenous peoples in her own country of Guatemala, met with Peltier in February. "Leonard Peltier’s resistance is an example for all Indigenous Peoples," says Menchu. "As long as he is not free, none of us can be free." The campaign, however, is not without its detractors. Most notable are the FBI, who have begun a public relations campaign of their own. In April, David Williams, Special Agent in Charge of the Milwaukee FBI office, wrote a letter to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel urging Clinton to reject clemency appeals. "Clearly, the record has established Peltier's responsibility for the willful murders of the FBI special agents," wrote Williams. "Peltier should be required to serve the totality of his life sentence and never again be allowed to taste freedom." The Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents Association has also placed letters and advertisements against Peltier; one appeared in The Washington Post last year and another in Indian Country Today in 1994. Peltier has a parole review hearing scheduled for June 12th. Related Stories:
FBI Promises to Prevent Peltier Pardon (The Talking Circle 4/21)
Peltier supporters respond (The Talking Circle 4/21) Relevant links:
The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
The Leonard Peltier Case. From the Minneapolis Division of the FBI.
National Police Group Urges President to Reject All Clemency Requests for Leonard Peltier. The National Association of Police Organizations, November 10, 1999.
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