The serious nature of the offense: the ongoing kidnapping of Leonard Peltier
by Carolina Saldaña
Tuesday Aug 25th, 2009 9:47 PM
In violation of the law, ethical standards, and human rights norms, and in the tradition of genocide against the original peoples of the Americas, the United States Parole Board has denied Native American political prisoner Leonard Peltier the right to spend the last years of his life in freedom. The Board’s shameful decision was announced by federal prosecutor Drew Wrigley on August 21. There won’t be another review of his case until 2024, when Leonard is 79 years old.
As a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), Leonard Peltier was unjustly sentenced to two life sentences for the deaths of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the Lakota nation (state of South Dakota) on June 26, 1975. ¿How long has this kidnapping gone on? 72 hours? A week? Several months? No. It’s been in progress for 33 ½ years!
The Parole Board’s pretexts?
--that his release would diminish the serious nature of the offense
--that his release would promote disrespect for the law
--that he hasn’t expressed remorse
--that he’s had several write-ups in prison, including an escape attempt.
Like a parrot, the Associated Press reporter repeats FBI lies spread by Wrigley: "Leonard Peltier is an unrepentant, cold-blooded murderer who executed FBI special agents Williams and Coler, and in doing that he tore them from their families and from their communities forever," Wrigley said. "Leonard Peltier is exactly where he belongs — federal prison, serving two life sentences.” (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/wire/sns-ap-us-peltier-parole,0,1411297.story)
The following statement was made by Leonard’s Defense Offense Committee on August 22:
“The Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee acknowledges the receipt of the decision of the United States Parole Commission to deny parole for American Indian Political Prisoner Leonard Peltier. We wish to thank our thousands of supporters for their tenacious efforts, in particular during the months leading to Leonard's recent hearing. Currently we are in the process of finalizing plans for efforts around exercising our right to challenge this decision, advocate for intervention by President Obama, and succeeding in getting both proper medical attention for Leonard and a transfer to a federal prison closer to home. We will be issuing directives within the near future.” (http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info/index1.htm)
Amnesty Internacional expressed its disappointment over the Board’s decision and called for the immediate release of Leonard Peltier. (http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/usa-denial-parole-leonard-peltier-after-more-32-years-prison-disappoint)
Leonard Peltier is widely recognized as a spiritual warrior who struggles for his people In his autobiographical prison writings, My Life is My Sundance, he writes: “I’ve often wondered what the FBI boys got out of all this, except the hatred of Native Americans and the disrespect of their own people. And what must they think of themselves, those who partook of all these manipulations and fabrications, when they look at their face in the mirror each morning? They must shudder at the sight of themselves, avert their eyes from their own gaze in the mirror. So they have to live the lie they created in order to maintain an aura of pride and self-respect. Or perhaps their arrogance builds an impregnable wall of delusion.” (p. 119)
Kidnapping is a serious crime and it is aggravated every day, every week, every year. The FBI, prosecuting attorneys, judges, jailers, and Parole Board members all know Leonard Peltier was condemned on fabricated evidence. His brothers Dino Butler and Bob Robideau, also charged with the same killings, were acquitted on grounds of self-defense, justifiable in the reign of terror existing on the Pine Ridge Reservation following AIM’s daring occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973. One of them has said he fired the bullets that killed the agents. (http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info/PELTIER_ATTORNEY_RESPONSE_TO_PAROLE_DENIAL.1.htm)
The Board’s pretexts are the same ones used in many cases:
The serious nature of the offense? In the campaign to gain the release of the MOVE 9, Ramona Africa said: “Historically, with political prisoners especially, parole boards have just basically thumbed their nose at their own laws to keep prisoners in prison. They’ve said things like “the serious nature of the offense” as an excuse to deny prisoners parole, especially political prisoners. And that is absolutely illegal. It makes no sense at all. Because when a judge sentences a person..., he’s already taken into account the “serious nature of the offense”. That’s what the judge is sentencing them on—the offense they were convicted of. So to come back later and say we’re not releasing you...because of the serious nature of the offense is completely illegal because that was already taken into account. And what it amounts to is re-sentencing a person.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KceYmm5nL_E&feature=PlayList&p=BFEA44728354F2CF&index=2)
Promote disrespect for the law? Leonard has something to say about the United States government’s respect for the law in its war against AIM: “They hid behind their usual cloak of ‘national security’ do their dirty work. Their first tactic: Forget the law, the law’s for suckers, subvert the law at will to get your man, however innocent he may be...; lie whenever and wherever you have to to keep the focus of inquiry on your victims, not on your own crimes. I have to admit, they succeeded brilliantly. In the name of the Law, they violated every law on the books, and in their deliberate strategy of putting me––and how many other innocents?––away in a cell or a grave, they turned the Constitution of the United States into pulp fiction. (My Life is my Sun Dance, p. 95-6)
Express remorse? As a matter of fact, Leonard has said that he regrets the deaths of the agents, but he has no remorse for having defending his people under attack at the Jumping Bull ranch, and he refuses to accept responsibility for something he didn’t do, executing the two agents.
Infractions of the rules? The Board knows that this man who is respected by hundreds of thousands of people in the world has not had a single infraction in the last ten years and that his record of promoting peace in the world is so distinguished that he has received six nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.
An escape attempt? Nobody remembers the circumstances better than the FBI itself. Leonard relates that Standing Deer (El Venado) was recruited to kill him in prison, but was courageous enough to warn him. Leonard then fled because he believed his life was in danger. In retrospect, he thinks that this was all part of a plot by the federal agents to kill him while he was trying to escape. Now he must live “forever stricken” with his grief for the deaths of the prisoners who died due to the attempt: Dallas Thundershield, shot in the back during the escape; Bobby García, said to have hanged himself in his cell; and Standing Deer, “dumped back into an iron hole” (Mi Vida es mi Danza al Sol, pág. 164-167) only to be executed after he served his sentence.
The serious nature of the offense. The serious nature of countless offenses.