Leonard Peltier: Victimized by Criminal Injustice – by Stephen Lendman
A Leonard Peltier Defense Committee site can be accessed through the following link:
It calls him:
— an artist;
— 2007 Nobel Peace Prize nominee;
— 2004 Peace and Freedom Party primary ballot presidential candidate nominee;
— advocate of resolving all issues peacefully;
— human and indigenous rights activist; and
— wrongfully imprisoned political prisoner since 1976.
Peltier was framed, convicted and imprisoned for the deaths of two FBI agents, killed during a 1975 Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota shoot-out. Though innocent, he’s currently serving two consecutive life terms – not for murder, for activism.
A Free Leonard.org site covers facts about his case, accessed through the link below:
It says attorneys representing him filed FOIA requests to obtain previously unavailable government information. Federal obstruction so far prevents it to conceal disturbing revelations, proving his innocence.
Incarcerated since 1976, he’s been denied parole, clemency, a pardon, due process justice on appeal, (including by the US Supreme Court), or retrial for serious prosecutorial and FBI irregularities, including fabricated evidence to frame him. More on it below.
The FBI also targeted him for assassination in prison. Moreover, he’s been brutalized in solitary confinement numerous times, and at age 66, suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and prostate problems, as well as other health issues.
Peltier, in fact, was targeted for being a Native American activist, a topic Ward Churchill addressed in numerous books and an article titled, “The Covert War Against Native Americans,” saying:
Liberation organizations like the American Indian Movement (AIM), International Indian Treaty Council, and Women of All Red Nations struggle for Native American rights.
“In essence, their positions imply nothing less than the literal dismantlement of the modern (US) empire from the inside out. The stakes involved are tremendous,” including treaty obligations denied, involving land, resources, human and civil rights.
By imprisoning “Native American freedom fighters,” federal authorities “have been free to pursue programs of physical repression within America’s internal colonies” like abroad.
“At one level, this has meant the wholesale jailing of the movement’s leadership. Virtually every know AIM leader has been incarcerated in either state or federal prisons” since 1968 or earlier, “some repeatedly.”
“This, in combination with accompanying time spent in local jails awaiting trial, the high costs of bail and legal defense,” and time spent at trial is calculated malfeasance to wear down resistance, drain resources to pursue it, and “cripple (movement) strength.”
Peltier is perhaps its best know victim, denied justice to isolate, silence, and let him rot behind prison bars unjustly.
1973 Wounded Knee Siege and Tragedy
Beginning February 27, 1973, it lasted 71 days, a confrontation between AIM activists v. FBI thugs and complicit Native American vigilantes – so-called “GOONS, (Guardians of Our Oglala Nation),” battling on the wrong side against their own.
In fact, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Tribal Council corruption, as well as out-of-control tension, got Lakota Nation elders to ask AIM for help. On February 27, armed Oglala Sioux reclaimed Wounded Knee, wanting their 1868 treaty rights honored.
It stated that “(t)he government of the United States desires peace, and its honor is hereby pledged to keep it.” It also re-affirmed all Indian rights granted under the 1851 Treaty, abrogated and denied, nonetheless, like others.
Before the 1770s, the Great Sioux Nation held territories from Minnesota to the Rocky Mountains and from the Yellowstone to Platte Rivers. Its famed leaders included Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Red Cloud and Black Elk, among others.
Until the Treaty of 1868, they were the richest northwestern plains Native American nation. However, treaties made and broken changed their lives. Settlers, railroads, and mining interests stole their lands and resources. Now they wanted them back.
When AIM took over Wounded Knee, over 75 Indian Nations were represented, and more supporters arrived daily from around the country. Against them were GOONS, FBI thugs, federal marshals, and National Guard troops, surrounding and cutting them off, yet supporters still got through.
When it ended, an FBI/BIA “reign of terror” began. Lasting three years, roving death squads killed at least 342 AIM members and supporters. Hundreds more were harassed and beaten, and over 560 others arrested. Only 15 were convicted of a crime. Perhaps none, in fact, were guilty.
Brief Timeline of Peltier’s Case
— June 26, 1975: FBI Special Agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams killed at Wounded Knee;
— February 6, 1976: Peltier arrested in Hinton, Alberta, Canada, then held for an extradition hearing;
— June 18, 1976: he’s ordered extradited to America;
— March/April 1977: he’s tried for killing Coler and Williams;
— April 18, 1977: he’s convicted on two counts of first-degree murder;
— June 1, 1977: he’s sentenced to two consecutive life terms in federal prison;
— he’s subsequently denied parole, retrial, clemency, a pardon, or justice on appeal.
Evidence of FBI and Prosecutorial Obstruction of Justice
— witnesses were intimidated and coerced, including children;
— key defense witnesses were prohibited from testifying;
— evidence refuting conflicting ballistics reports was ruled inadmissible;
— no one could identify Peltier as Coler and Williams’ killer;
— a climate of fear was created at trial;
— evidence was fabricated;
— exculpating evidence was withheld;
— perjured testimonies and affidavits were used;
— jury tampering was discovered;
— FBI provocateurs gave GOONS illegal arms and ammunition to commit murder;
— FBI and federal judges ex parte contact compromised Peltier’s right to due process and judicial fairness; and
— false inflammatory testimony was permitted at trial.
Overall, Department of Justice malfeasance framed Peltier, manipulating jurors to wrongfully convict him. In fact, authorities later admitted they weren’t sure who killed Coler and Williams or if Peltier was involved. Moreover, hundreds of FBI-instigated “reign of terror” killings were never investigated. Government-sponsored killers remain free.
Amnesty International considers Peltier a political prisoner who “should be immediately and unconditionally released.” Of course, he never should have been arrested, extradited, tried, convicted or imprisoned.
Governments, past and present congressional members, and hundreds of world dignitaries agree, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mikail Gorbachov, and former MP/anti-war activist Tony Benn.
Repressive Democrat and Republican leaders keep him imprisoned, waging war against truth, justice and democratic values ruthlessly, filling America’s gulag with many thousands of innocent men, women and children.
A Final Comment
On June 26, part of a Peltier statement to friends and relations said:
“I always try to come to you full of good spirit and vigor. But I cannot lie. There are days when the ugliness of my situation weighs me down….I never thought this could happen. I never believed law enforcement and the government (would) keep their dirty laundry hidden away” this long.
Yet through dedicated efforts, “we have learned of hidden evidence, coerced testimony, and outright lies by the FBI and prosecutors….I am living proof that my case is about squashing Indian rights and Indian sovereignty.”
Those responsible for framing him will live “their last moments (in) shame….If you believe in truth, justice, honor, freedom, all of what is supposed to make America great, then help me open the door to my release….join my cause….and do all you can to eradicate injustice.”
Aho! Mitakuye Oyasin (All my relations, as part of a prayer for oneness and harmony with all forms of life)
Doksha (See you before long). Lakota has no word for goodbye.
On June 27, he was placed in solitary confinement for six months. According to his attorney, Robert R. Bryan, it was for minor infractions, saying imprisonment weakened him, adding:
“Officials are using (excuses) to torture my 66-year-old client. His health is poor because of decades of imprisonment. It is an attempt to break and intimidate him.”
In fact, they’re trying to kill him. Currently incarcerated at US Penitentiary, Lewisburg, PA, he called his cell a “cement steel hotbox” with little ventilation. As a result, he’s “drenched in hot sweat,” Bryan saying he was put in a “hellhole.”
He’s there 23 hours a day weekdays, 24 hours on weekends, given no personal visits, and allowed to shower Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
That’s how distinguished activists are treated in America, notably Muslims and people of color, including Native Americans, continuing a centuries long genocidal process.
Lewisburg is the oldest US federal prison. It’s also one of the most notorious. Bureau of Prisons says it’s now:
“run entirely as a Special Management Unit (SMU) as a more controlled and restrictive environment for managing the most aggressive and disruptive inmates from USP general population.”
Though a model prisoner, Peltier was sent there before. According to Bryan:
“They’re hoping he’ll die there, that he’ll be forgotten there” and perish, denied justice his friends and supporters worldwide won’t ever quit fighting for. Nor will they let up condemning ruthless officials who destroy human beings for political advantage.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.