Pardon Leonard Peltier

 obama and peltier

Pardon Leonard Peltier

Opportunity for Obama, our nation

By Jonathan Mark

Published in Recorder, Greenfield, MA
In print on Saturday, February 6, 2016

Leonard Peltier has been confined in prison for more than 40 years. He was charged with the shooting-death of two FBI agents, Ronald Williams and Jack Coler, in the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975. However, the facts around his case show a dismal miscarriage of justice. It looks like the only way Leonard Peltier will be free to go home to friends and family after all this time is by an executive clemency pardon from President Barack Obama.

His prison record has been exemplary, and he has excelled as a human rights and environmental rights activist, a nominee for six Nobel Peace prizes, an acclaimed artist, a mentor, an author, a great-grandfather who is simply a good, humble and wonderful human being.

One could learn more about him from his book, “Prison Writings — My Life Is My Sun Dance.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu stated that it is “A deeply moving and very disturbing story of a gross miscarriage of justice and an eloquent cri de coeur of Native American for redress and to be regarded as human beings with inalienable rights guaranteed under the United States Constitution, like any other citizens. We pray that it does not fall on deaf ears. America owes it to herself.”

A little more than 15 years ago, on International Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, 2000, I joined local activists that chartered two buses from Northampton to join thousands who walked and prayed in the streets of New York City for Truth and Reconciliation. Most everyone there was optimistic about President William Clinton granting Peltier clemency before leaving office.

However, when the Supreme Court chose George Bush Jr. as president, Clinton would no longer have Al Gore to protect him from the threat of criminal prosecution for having lied under oath regarding his affair with an intern. The political pressure at that time was quite intense.

In an unprecedented demonstration, approximately 500 federal agents marched to the White House in protest to keep Leonard Peltier in prison. President Clinton took the easy way out and kept him incarcerated and freed white collar criminal, Marc Rich.

Now that we are approaching another administration’s final hours, many are hopeful that President Obama will grant Peltier an executive clemency.

Peltier was beaten up and almost killed when transferred from one prison to another. His health has declined significantly. Currently, he is headed for surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurism. At 70 years old, many are wondering how much longer he can survive in prison.

Those supporting his freedom over the yeas have included such notable people and organizations as Dr. Helen Caldicott, The Dalai Lama, the late Nelson Mandela, the late Coretta Scott King, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Amnesty International, Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu, Archbishop Tutu and other parliamentarians, and celebrated persons around the globe.

The only evidence against Peltier was the fact that he was present at the Jumping Bull ranch during the fatal shoot-out. There were more than 30 other individuals there on the day of the shooting, members and nonmembers of the American Indian Movement, (but only AIM members were prosecuted). Peltier is the only person who was convicted, sentenced, and imprisoned. And, today, the U.S. Attorney admits that no one knows who fired the fatal shots.

Judge Gerald Heaney of the Court of Appeals of the Eighth Circuit (who authored the decision denying a new trial), in reviewing withheld evidence and altered facts, has since voiced firm support for Peltier’s release. He also indicated that the FBI had engaged in improper tactics that played a major role in creating the circumstances for the shoot-out. He then sought clemency so justice can truly be served and promote healing with Native Americans and all concerned.

A film narrated by Robert Redford, “Incident At Oglala” documents the events landing Leonard in prison. One can watch and access this film at the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee’s website — keep updated on the campaign.

Concerned persons wishing to support executive clemency by President Obama should urge him to grant this tragically delayed pardon. One way to do this is by calling the White House comment line 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at 202-456-1111.

As has often been said the history of our government’s actions with the first citizens of this country has been tragic at best, and oftentimes unconscionable. It is hard to imagine a case more deeply human and spiritually mandated for reconciliation for all nations within our nation and world beyond, than the case of Leonard Peltier.

# # #

This following is from a March, 2016 update from International Leonard Peltier Defense:

Leonard Peltier’s clemency application has been filed with the Office of the Pardon Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice.

Some of you may recall that Leonard’s 1993 application for clemency was denied by George W. Bush as one of his last actions as President in 2009. After a required waiting period, Leonard became eligible to re-file. For the past nearly six months, a team has worked on the final version of the application (which is far more involved than just filling out a form).

What does this mean for supporters? Focus on the White House. We have less than a year (roughly 310 days) to convince President Obama to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.

Please call President Obama for Leonard Peltier: 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414 every work day. Please also frequently email President Obama:; post a comment on Obama’s Facebook page:; send a tweet to President Obama: @POTUS; and/or write a letter: President Barack Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500.

If ever there was a time to be very active on Leonard’s behalf it’s now!

The International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee

Note: You may wish to read the press release by Amnesty International-USA

# # #

Photographs by Jonathan Mark, NYC – December 10, 2000






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Free Leonard Peltier


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5 Responses to Pardon Leonard Peltier

  1. Pingback: Free Leonard Peltier | flybynews

  2. flybynews says:

    Following is a statement by Leonard Peltier, which I just received from his defense committee:

    February 6, 2016

    Greetings friends, supporters and all Native Peoples.

    What can I say that I have not said before? I guess I can start by saying see you later to all of those who have passed in the last year. We Natives don’t like to mention their names. We believe that if we speak their names it disrupts their journey. They may loose their way and their spirits wander forever. If too many call out to them, they will try to come back. But their spirits know we are thinking about them, so all I will say is safe journey and I hope to see you soon.

    On February 6th, I will have been imprisoned for 40 years! I’m 71 years old and still in a maximum security penitentiary. At my age, I’m not sure I have much time left.

    I have earned about 4-5 years good time that no one seems to want to recognize. It doesn’t count, I guess? And when I was indicted the average time served on a life sentence before being given parole was 7 years. So that means I’ve served nearly 6 life sentences and I should have been released on parole a very long time ago. Then there’s mandatory release after serving 30 years. I’m 10 years past that. The government isn’t supposed to change the laws to keep you in prison — EXCEPT if you’re Leonard Peltier, it seems.

    Now, I’m told I’ll be kept at USP Coleman I until 2017 when they’ll decide if I can go to a medium security facility — or NOT. But, check this out, I have been classified as a medium security prisoner now for at least 15 years, and BOP regulations say elders shall be kept in a less dangerous facility/environment. But NOT if you’re Leonard Peltier, I guess.

    As you’ll remember, the history of my bid for clemency is long. My first app was with Jimmy Carter. He denied it. Ronald Reagan promised President Mikhail Gorbachev that he would release me if the Soviet Union released a prisoner, but Reagan reneged. George H.W. Bush did nothing. The next app was with Bill Clinton. He left office without taking action even though the Pardon Attorney did an 11-month investigation (it usually takes 9 months) and we were told she had recommended clemency. George W. Bush denied that petition in 2009. And in all of the applications for clemency, the FBI has interfered with an executive order. That’s illegal as hell!

    Today, I’m facing another dilemma — an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). It’s the size of an AAA battery. The doctor told me if it bursts, I can bleed to death. It’s also close to my spine and I could end up paralyzed. The good news is that it’s treatable and the operation has a 96-98 percent success rate. BUT I’m in a max security prison. We don’t get sent for treatment until it is terminal.

    As President Obama completes the final year of his term, I hope that he will continue to fight to fulfill his promises, and further the progress his Administration has made towards working in partnership with First Peoples. It gives me hope that this President has worked hard to affirm the trust relationship with the Tribal Nations. With YOUR encouragement, I believe Obama will have the courage and conviction to commute my sentence and send me home to my family.

    Looking back on the 40 years of efforts on my behalf, I am overwhelmed and humbled. I would like to say thank you to all the supporters who have believed in me over the years. Some of you have been supporters since the beginning. You made sure I had books to read and commissary funds to buy what I may need to be as comfortable as one can be in this place. You made donations to the defense committee so we could continue fighting for my freedom, too. You all worked hard — are still working hard — to spread the word about what is now being called the most outrageous conviction in U.S. history. There are good-hearted people in this world, and you’re among them. I’m sorry I cannot keep up with answering all of your letters. But thanks for the love you have shown me. Without it, I could never have made it this long. I’m sure of it.

    I believe that my incarceration, the constitutional violations in my case, and the government misconduct in prosecuting my case are issues far more important than just my life or freedom. I feel that each of you who have fought for my freedom have been a part of the greater struggle of Native Peoples — for Treaty rights, sovereignty, and our very survival. If I should be called home, please don’t give up on our struggle.

    In the Spirit of Crazy Horse…


    Leonard Peltier

  3. Pingback: Bernie Sanders for President – Pardon Peltier | flybynews

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