Sunday, January 25, 2009

Take action: Political prisoner Leonard Peltier at risk!, by Gloria La Riva

Take action: Political prisoner Leonard Peltier at risk!

Assault against Peltier could become pretext to deny parole

The life of political prisoner Leonard Peltier is in danger, and family and supporters have launched an urgent campaign demanding his safety.

Leonard Peltier demo in San Francisco, 01-23-2009 Activists hold an emergency rally in support of Peltier, San Francisco, Calif., Jan. 23. Photo: Bill Hackwell

Imprisoned in U.S. federal prison for 33 years after an FBI frame-up, Peltier was recently transferred to Canaan prison from Lewisburg, both of them in Pennsylvania. On Jan. 13, Peltier was moved into general population in Canaan soon after his transfer. Some inmates jumped and beat him—a highly unusual attack given that Peltier had just arrived.

His supporters have strong reason to believe that Peltier is the target of continued FBI repression. Another Native American inmate, Standing Deer, was recruited by a prison official and an outside civilian believed to be an FBI agent to kill Peltier in 1978. Both Standing Deer and Peltier were in Marion prison in Illinois at the time. Standing Dear revealed the plot to Peltier, and they became close friends.

The incident could be used to deny parole to Peltier in his upcoming hearing, despite his record of 25 years as a model prisoner. Betty Peltier-Solano, Peltier’s sister and coordinator of the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee, has issued an urgent public letter about the Jan. 13 attack:

"We feel that prison authorities, at the prompting of the FBI, orchestrated this attack and thus, we are greatly concerned about his safety. It may be that the attackers, whom Leonard did not even know, were offered reduced sentences for carrying out this heinous assault.

"Since Leonard is up for parole soon, this could be a conspiracy to discredit a model prisoner. He was placed in solitary confinement and only given one meal; this is generally done when you won’t name your attackers."

In the brutal U.S. prison system, the authorities often single out the victim. If Peltier were to reveal who beat him, he would be labeled a "snitch." For his own protection, he must remain silent. Yet, the officials are now punishing Peltier for his silence.

Peltier’s case: 33 years of injustice

The FBI has persecuted Peltier ever since a 1975 FBI armed raid on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, in which two of their agents were killed.

The raid was the culmination of three years of a murderous U.S. government war on the residents of Pine Ridge, in which over 60 traditional members and American Indian Movement activists were murdered. Leonard Peltier was among the young AIM members who came to Pine Ridge to protect elder residents who had pleaded for AIM’s protection.

On June 26, 1975, using the theft of a pair of boots as a pretext, the FBI agents raided a reservation ranch of the Jumping Bull family, racing onto the land in an unmarked car. A shoot-out ensued. One Native man, Joe Stuntz, and the two FBI agents, were killed.

As dozens of FBI encircled the ranch in the hours that followed, several AIM members, including Peltier, escaped. Two AIM members, Bob Robideau and Darrell "Dino" Butler, were arrested and tried for the killing of the FBI agents, in Rapid City, Iowa. They were acquitted by an all-white jury, which agreed that their actions were in self-defense.

Because Peltier had successfully escaped to Canada and did not face trial, the FBI waged an all-out campaign so that someone would pay for the FBI deaths. The FBI fabricated a false claim to secure Peltier’s extradition from Canada. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.

Since then, numerous appeals for a new trial for Peltier have been denied on technical grounds, despite overwhelming evidence of massive FBI misconduct in the prosecution. Peltier has many supporters in the United States and around the world.

On Jan. 23, AIM-West, a new chapter of AIM, held a midday protest at the San Francisco federal building to expose the danger to Peltier and demand his freedom. More than 40 people rallied and marched. His longtime friend, Berta (Bird) Levy Strain, said, "I just spoke to Leonard recently. It breaks my heart to see him separated from his family all these years. He told me, ‘Bird, I just want to be home and be a father and grandfather to my family.’"

Tony Gonzales, AIM-West director and rally organizer, urged continued phone calls to the prison administration and Congress members. He led a delegation after the rally to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s office to urge her intervention on behalf of Peltier’s safety. Other speakers included ex-political prisoner Bato Talamantez, and Gloria La Riva, both of ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five.

People are asked to write or call the prison and government officials listed below to demand Peltier’s safety and urge a granting of parole in his upcoming hearing:

Warden Ronnie R. Holt, Warden


U.S. Penitentiary

3057 Easton Turnpike

Waymart, PA 18472

Phone: 570-488-8000

Fax: 570-488-8130


D. Scott Dodrill, Director

Northeast Regional Office

Federal Bureau of Prisons

2nd & Chesnut Streets, 7th Floor

Philadelphia, PA 19106

Phone: 215-521-7301


Harley G. Lappin, Director

Bureau of Prisons

U.S. Department of Justice

320 First Street, NW, Room 654

Washington, DC 20534

Phone: 202-307-3250

Fax: 202-514-6878

Ask President Obama to investigate this incident:

The Honorable Barack H. Obama

President, United States of America

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Comments: 202-456-1111

Switchboard: 202-456-1414

Fax: 202-456-2461


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