Clinton passes over Peltier clemency
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JANUARY 22, 2001

In one of his last official actions as President, Bill Clinton on Saturday morning pardoned or commuted the sentences of 176 Americans but imprisoned American Indian activist Leonard Peltier was not among them.

The action has cast doubt on whether Peltier, convicted for the 1975 murders of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, will ever see freedom. The new administration of President George W. Bush is seen as less favorable to granting clemency to Peltier, 56, who is in failing health.

But Peltier supporters aren't yet giving up the battle. Although the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (LPDC) called Saturday a "Day of Shame," the group is vowing to keep fighting for Peltier's release.

"We were both shocked and saddened by President Clinton's decision to deny executive clemency to Leonard Peltier," said the LPDC in a statement. "We must never leave Leonard behind, but we can only bring him home if we keep working together."

A host of Peltier supporters worldwide had expressed hope Clinton would grant him clemency. On election day in November, Clinton said he would make a decision one way or the other before he left office.

Clinton's words enraged law enforcement and FBI agents, both current and former. A couple hundred FBI agents held a public march to the White House in December, opposing clemency. Director Louis J. Freeh, a longtime Peltier foe who will keep his position under Bush for at least two more years, also lashed out against an imminent decision, but his advice was reportedly discounted by Clinton.

Peltier had other prominent opponents, though. South Dakota Governor Bill Janklow, who was the state's Attorney General during the government's both acknowledged "reign of terror" on Pine Ridge, and Senator Tim Daschle (D-S.D.) advised Clinton against clemency.

AIM leader Vernon Bellecourt told The Minneapolis Star Tribune that their views won't go unforgotten in Indian Country. He promised to fight for their defeat if they seek re-election.

Peltier's legal team now says they are working on a new strategy for his freedom, acknowledging potential changes that may come with the new Bush administration.

Relevant Links:
Free Leonard Peltier -
The Leonard Peltier File, FBI -
The No Parole Peltier Association -

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