Friday, August 21, 2009

Leonard Peltier Parole DENIED - Immediate Politcal Action Needed

BISMARCK, N.D. | American Indian activist Leonard Peltier, imprisoned since 1977 for the killings of two FBI agents, has been denied parole after authorities decided that releasing him would diminish the seriousness of his crime, a prosecutor said Friday.

Peltier, 64, will not be eligible for parole again until July 2024, when he will be 79 years old.

Peltier is serving two life sentences for the execution-style deaths of FBI agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams in a 1975 standoff on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

He has said the FBI framed him, which the agency denies. He has unsuccessfully appealed his conviction numerous times. He also was denied parole in 1993.

Parole was abolished for federal convicts in 1987, but Peltier remains eligible because he was convicted before then.

The Bush Administration holdovers on the U.S. Parole Commission today
adopted the position of the FBI that anyone who may be implicated in the
killings of its agents should never be paroled and should be left to die in
prison. Despite judicial determinations that the unrepentant FBI fabricated
evidence and presented perjured testimony in Leonard Peltier's prosecution;
despite a jury's acquittal on grounds of self-defense of two co-defendants
who were found to have engaged in the same conduct of which Mr. Peltier was
convicted; despite Mr. Peltier's exemplary record during his incarceration
for more than 33 years and his clearly demonstrated eligibility for parole;
despite letters and petitions calling for his release submitted by millions
of people in this country and around the world including one of the judges
who ruled on his earlier appeals; and despite his advanced age and
deteriorating health, the Parole Commission today informed Mr. Peltier that
his "release on parole would depreciate the seriousness of your offenses and
would promote disrespect for the law," and set a reconsideration hearing in
July 2024. This is the extreme action of the same law enforcement community
that brought us the indefinite imprisonment of suspected teenage terrorists,
tortures, and killings in CIA prisons around the world and promoted
widespread disrespect for the democratic concepts of justice upon which this
country supposedly was founded. These are the same institutions that have
never treated indigenous peoples with dignity or respect or accepted any
responsibility for centuries of intolerence and abuse. At his parole hearing
on July 28th, Leonard Peltier expressed regret and accepted responsibility
for his role in the incident in which the two FBI agents and one Native
American activist died as the result of a shootout on the Pine Ridge
Reservation. Mr. Peltier emphasized that the shootout occurred in
circumstances where there literally was a war going on between corrupt
tribal leaders, supported by the government, on the one hand, and Native
American traditionalists and young activists on the other. He again denied
-- as he has always denied -- that he intended the deaths of anyone or that
he fired the fatal shots that killed the two agents, and he reminded the
hearing officer that one of his former co-defendants recently admitted to
having fired the fatal shots, himself. Accordingly, it is not true that
Leonard Peltier participated in "the execution style murders of two FBI
agents," as the Parole Commission asserts, and there never has been credible
evidence of Mr. Peltier's responsibility for the fatal shots as the FBI
continues to allege. Moreover, given the corrupt practices of the FBI,
itself, it is entirely untrue that Leonard Peltier's parole at this juncture
will in any way "depreciate the seriousness" of his conduct and/or "promote
disrespect for the law." We will continue to seek parole and clemency for
Mr. Peltier and to eventually bring this prolonged injustice to a prompt and
fair resolution.