Even the most cursory scan of the material available online reveals there are many, many questions and inconsistencies surrounding the trial of Mr. Peltier.
Update (2009/08/24): Leonard Peltier is again denied parole. Hear his lawyer speak on Democracy Now.
July 28, 2009
VANCOUVER, B.C. – A longtime Canadian supporter of jailed American Indian activist Leonard Peltier says she hopes a parole hearing Tuesday will finally lead to his freedom.
Jennifer Wade says Peltier has spent 33 years in prison without admitting he murdered two FBI agents in 1975 during a shootout on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Peltier was a member of the American Indian Movement, which had clashed with the FBI on the reservation over several weeks.
Peltier and two others were charged in the agents’ deaths. The others claimed self-defence and were acquitted.
But Peltier had fled to Canada. He was extradited in 1976 based on a contested affidavit by a witness who claimed he was involved in the killings.
Wade, a justice activist and one-time Amnesty International worker, said Monday that doubts have been cast on the fairness of Peltier’s trial.
“I thought he would be released, oh so many times,” she said. “I’ve worked on his case since the beginning. I saw him taken away.”
Peltier’s defenders point to coercion of witnesses and phoney affidavits. But despite one appeal court judge castigating the FBI’s conduct of the investigation, the conviction was upheld.
Peltier’s last parole hearing was in 1993. His supporters consider him a political prisoner.
They lobbied outgoing president Bill Clinton to grant Peltier clemency in 2000 but 500 FBI agents demonstrated outside the White House and the pardon was not granted.
Peltier is 65 now and in failing health.
Wade said she has kept in touch with Peltier, the last contact just after last Christmas, “a very sad letter, very sad.”
“He was a very young man that I saw led away and I knew it was wrong then and it’s been wrong all these years,” said Wade.
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