"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Monday, June 1, 2009

Free Peltier NOW!!!


We routinely see or hear stories about people being unjustly imprisoned in countries like Myanmar, China, and Iran, but how often do we here about such things in the United States, which is supposed to have a just legal system? It would be hard to imagine (for most people in the U.S.) that some people languishing in U.S. prisons might be political prisoners. Leonard Peltier is is one such political prisoner; his crime - being Native American, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time (when two FBI agents were shot).

Leonard was wrongly convicted in 1977 (based on fabricated and suppressed evidence, and coerced testimony) of the murder of two FBI agents on June 26, 1975 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The United States Courts of Appeal have repeatedly recognized government misconduct in both the investigation and prosecution of Leonard's case, but have never called for justice. Leonard has never been fairly considered for parole or clemency; this case has not been a high point of the U.S. justice system.

You can learn about the facts of Leonard's case at Friends of Peltier. You can also become familiar with the 1975 incident at Pine Ridge, Leonard's case and the plight of Native Americans on the Pine Ridge Reservation (one of the poorest places in the U.S.) by watching Incident at Oglala-The Leonard Peltier Story (video below, NOTE: Ignore the contact information at the end of the video; some is out-of-date).

Leonard Peltier is innocent! He is also in poor health due to medical conditions that have not been properly treated (or withheld in at least one case) in prison. He has recently applied for a parole hearing, and one is tentatively scheduled for July 27, 2009. I hope you will join me in writing a letter in support of Leonard's parole. You can find the Parole Commission's address and a sample letter at the end of this post. Please also consider signing the online parole petition.

Amnesty International issued a statement before Congress in 2000 saying, "Amnesty International considers Leonard Peltier to be a political prisoner... Amnesty International believes that Leonard Peltier should be immediately and unconditionally released." Without justice there is no peace. Let us help bring justice for Leonard Peltier. And let there be NO more political prisoners in the United States of America. FREE THE CAPTIVES!


Further References: Amnesty International APPEAL FOR THE RELEASE OF LEONARD PELTIER

Sample Letter (from Friends of Peltier)

United States Parole Commission
5550 Friendship Boulevard
Suite 420
Chevy Chase, MD 20815-7286

(Insert Date)

Re: LEONARD PELTIER #89637-132

Dear Commissioners,

Convicted in connection with the deaths on June 26, 1975, of Ronald Williams and Jack Coler, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mr. Leonard Peltier remains imprisoned at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

The court record in this case clearly shows that government prosecutors have long held that they do not know who killed Mr. Coler and Mr. Williams nor what role Leonard Peltier "may have" played in the tragic shoot-out.

Further, in a decision filed by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on December 18, 2002, Mr. Peltier’s sentences "were imposed in violation of [Peltier's] due process rights because they were based on information that was false due to government misconduct,” and, according to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, in 2003: "…Much of the government’s behavior at the Pine Ridge Reservation and its prosecution of Leonard Peltier is to be condemned. The government withheld evidence. It intimidated witnesses. These facts are not disputed."

Despite these admissions, Leonard Peltier has served over 33 years in prison.

After careful consideration of the facts in Leonard Peltier's case, I have concluded that Leonard Peltier does not represent a risk to the public. First, Leonard Peltier has no prior convictions and has advocated for non-violence throughout his prison term. Furthermore, Leonard Peltier has been a model prisoner. He has received excellent evaluations from his work supervisors on a regular basis. He continues to mentor young Native prisoners, encouraging them to lead clean and sober lives. He has used his time productively, disciplining himself to be a talented painter and an expressive writer. Although Leonard Peltier maintains that he did not kill the agents, he has openly expressed remorse and sadness over their deaths.

Most admirably, Mr. Peltier contributes regular support to those in need. He donates his paintings to charities including battered women's shelters, half way houses, alcohol and drug treatment programs, and Native American scholarship funds. He also coordinates an annual holiday gift drive for the children of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Leonard Peltier is widely recognized for his good deeds and in turn has won several awards including the North Star Frederick Douglas Award; Federation of Labour (Ontario, Canada) Humanist of the Year Award; Human Rights Commission of Spain International Human Rights Prize; and 2004 Silver Arrow Award for Lifetime Achievement. Mr. Peltier also has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize six times.

Leonard Peltier is now over 60 years of age—a great-grandfather—and suffers from partial blindness, diabetes, a heart condition, and high blood pressure.

I recognize the grave nature of the events of June 26, 1975, and I extend my deepest sympathy to the families of those who died that day. However, I find aspects of this case to also be of concern and I believe Leonard Peltier deserves to be reunited with his family and allowed to live the remaining years of his life in peace. I also believe that, rather than presenting a threat to the public, Mr. Peltier’s release would help to heal a wound that has long impeded better relations between the federal government and American Indians.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



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