Native American political prisoner Leonard Peltier, 79-years-old, denied parole

Self portrait by Leonard Peltier

From the Leonard Peltier Ad Hoc Committee

July 3, 2024
This fight is not over until it is over. Lead Attorney Jenipher Jones and Attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen, who are leading both the administrative appeal and litigation efforts on behalf of Mr. Peltier, will appeal the United State Parole Commission’s grotesquely unconstitutional decision.
In a moment of bitter irony, as the nation heads into the 4th of July Independence Day holiday, the United States Parole Commission failed to recommend Leonard Peltier, who is the longest-serving Indigenous political prisoner in the United States, for release. The USPC’s July 2, 2024 decision continues to impose upon Mr. Peltier a slow Death by Incarceration. The Parole Commission’s decision only illustrates the truth of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention report stating that Leonard’s incarceration constitutes an arbitrary detention and noting his parole hearings as a key contributing factor to what they have characterized as his unjustly prolonged incarceration.

Though Congress mandated the closure of the US Parole Commission in 1987, it remains in operation, due to decades of reauthorizations and extensions. After unconstitutional misapplication of statutory parole provisions, the Commission is denying freedom to many vulnerable and elderly population of federal prisoners, known as “old law prisoners,” including Leonard Peltier and many other political prisoners.
Leonard is a prisoner of war. Echoing Frederick Douglas this 4th of July holiday, attorneys Jones and Meltzer-Cohen reflect on his enduring words, “What have… those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?”
We who believe in freedom cannot rest. We will not give up the fight for Leonard – and neither should you.
You can write a note of support to Leonard Peltier:

Leonard Peltier 89637-132
USP Coleman I, U.S. Penitentiary, POB 1033, Coleman, FL 33521.
(Native American political prisoner framed for abetting murder while defending traditional indigenous from threats including uranium mining on sacred lands)

15-Point Font. Plain White Envelope and Paper. No Glitter. No Stickers. No Perfume. NO CARDS!!!


from the Guardian

Indigenous activist Leonard Peltier, convicted over 1975 FBI killings, denied parole

Peltier, 79, in poor health and sentenced to life over two deaths in South Dakota, not eligible for another hearing until 2026

July 2, 2024 

Leonard Peltier, the 79-year-old Indigenous activist who has spent nearly 50 years in prison for the 1975 murders of two FBI agents, has been denied parole. Many fear the ruling all but ensures that the longest-imprisoned Indigenous American will die behind bars.

Peltier has maintained his innocence since he was arrested in connection with the deaths that occurred at the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota. For decades, advocates such as Coretta Scott King, Nelson Mandela, Pope Francis and James H Reynolds, the US attorney who handled the prosecution and appeal of Peltier’s case, have fought for his release.

Despite evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and due process violations throughout his trial, Peltier will now remain in prison at least until 2026, when the US Parole Commission set his next hearing. His health has severely declined over the past few years, and his supporters considered his most recent hearing, which occurred last month, his last chance of not dying in prison.

On 26 June 1975, years-long tensions between Oglala Lakota traditionalists, who sought to govern in customary ways, and assimilationists, who wanted to adapt to American standards of governance, culminated in a standoff at the Pine Ridge Indian reservation. Two FBI agents in unmarked cars pursued a vehicle they believed to be operated by Jimmy Eagle, for whom they were serving an arrest warrant, onto a part of the reservation that was occupied by traditionalists.

In the chaos, a shootout erupted and the FBI agents were soon joined by more than 150 Swat team members and other law enforcement. By the end, two FBI agents and a member of the American Indian movement (Aim) – a cold war-era liberation group that supported the traditionalists – had been killed.

Peltier was among the four men who were indicted in connection with the agents’ murders.

Since then, the FBI has been the staunchest opponent of Peltier, his claims of innocence and his supporters’ calls for his freedom. Mike Clark, president of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, called Peltier a “cold-blooded murderer”. When Bill Clinton had the opportunity to pardon Peltier as he was leaving office, hundreds of federal agents marched to the White House in what CBS news called an “unprecedented protest”.

‘It occurred to me that another injustice had occurred’

Peltier’s trial was rife with inconsistencies and errors.

Since joining the case, Sharp says he has been frustrated with “the system that refuses to acknowledge the government’s role in what happened in June of 1975, refuses to acknowledge the context of what happened, refuses to acknowledge the violation of rights that happened”.

‘The prosecution and incarceration of Mr Peltier is unjust’

Earlier this year, Brian Schatz, the US senator from Hawaii and chairperson of the Senate committee on Indian affairs, led a group of senators including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Mazie Hirono and others, in urging the US attorney general, Merrick Garland, to allow for Peltier’s compassionate release. The seven senators wrote a letter to Garland in March.

“Mr Peltier, who has been imprisoned for the past 49 years and is suffering from severe health conditions, should be able to return home and live out his remaining days among his own people,” the letter reads.“It is time that the federal government rectifies the grave injustice of Mr Peltier’s continued imprisonment, and strongly urge you to allow for his compassionate release.”

Reynolds called Peltier’s conviction and continued incarceration “a testament to a time and a system of justice that no longer has a place in our society”.

“With time, and the benefit of hindsight, I have realized that the prosecution and continued incarceration of Mr Peltier was and is unjust,” Reynolds wrote in a July 2021 letter to the president. “We were not able to prove that Mr Peltier personally committed any offense on the Pine Ridge Reservation.”

On Peltier’s 79th birthday last year, hundreds of supporters rallied outside the White House urging Biden to grant clemency. Through a statement in which he also thanked his supporters, Peltier himself was able to speak.

“I hope to breathe free air before I die. Hope is a hard thing to hold, but no one is strong enough to take it from me,” Peltier wrote. “There is a lot of work left to do. I would like to get out and join you in doing it.

Neither Peltier nor his supporters are confident he will live to see his 2026 parole date.