It’s past time to release Leonard Peltier

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By Gerry Adams (for Léargas)

This Christmas take a moment to think about Leonard Peltier.

Leonard was convicted in 1977 of the murder in 1975 of two FBI agents during a confrontation at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Two others who were charged with the murders were found not guilty by reason of self-defence. Peltier has always denied involvement in the two deaths. He has been in prison for almost 45 years.

In the years since then serious and significant questions have arisen over the evidence produced by the prosecution at the trial. A witness who recanted her account claimed she had been forced into making a statement by the FBI. A ballistics expert who linked Peltier’s weapon to the murders was reprimanded by the federal court for lying.

In July this year James H. Reynolds, the former US Attorney General whose office handled the prosecution and appeal in the Leonard Peltier case, appealed for his sentence to be commuted. In a letter to President Joe Biden he said: “With time, and the benefit of hindsight, I have realised that the prosecution and continued incarceration of Mr Peltier was and is unjust.”

In October Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action notice calling for clemency for Leonard Peltier. Amnesty pointed out that “Leonard Peltier has been imprisoned in the USA for over 44 years, some of which was spent in solitary confinement, serving two life sentences for murder despite concerns over the fairness of his trial. He has always maintained his innocence. He is 77 years old and suffers from a number of chronic health ailments, including one that is potentially fatal.”

Amnesty International has asked that President Biden grant Leonard Peltier clemency on “humanitarian grounds and as a matter of justice.” The human rights organisation has asked people to write to President Biden.

Several weeks ago I did just that. I wrote to President Biden urging him to release Leonard Peltier on “compassionate grounds”.

I said: “Leonard has been imprisoned for almost 45 years and has served more time than the presumptive maximum federal sentence… Leonard has always protested his innocence.”

I also quoted the view of James H. Reynolds and said: “In August former Federal Judge Kevin H. Sharp ,who is currently Leonard Peltier’s clemency lawyer, filed a new clemency petition with the Department of Justice.

“In October US Congress members Raúl M. Grijalva, Barbara Lee, Jesús Garcia, Cori Bush, Emanuel Cleaver II, Jared Huffman, Teresa Leger Fernández, Rashida Tlaib, Pramila Jayapal, Betty McCollum, and Melanie Stansbury — wrote a joint letter to you requesting the expedited release of Leonard Peltier from the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida and requesting that Mr Peltier be granted clemency.”

Calls for Leonard Peltier’s release have also been supported by international figures, including the late Nelson Mandela, former Irish President Mary Robinson and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Join us in urging compassion and clemency for Leonard Peltier. Write to:
President Joseph Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500, USA.

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