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FIGHT WHITE SUPREMACY, SAVE THE EARTH
Friday, November 25, 2011
FREE LEONARD PELTIER ALREADY
What can I say about Leonard Peltier that hasn't been said.
To some, it is the most controversial American court case in the last 50 years that, until recently, seemed hopelessly mired in prejudice, perjury and bureaucratic vindictiveness.
That’s a view expressed by researcher Dan Battaglia and filmmaker Preston Randolph inWind Chases the Sun a new documentary being made about Leonard Peltier, now in his 36th year in prison.
Peltier is serving two life sentences for the 1975 death of two FBI agents in a range war on the Pine Ridge Oglala-Sioux Indian reserve in South Dakota, after the troubles at Wounded Knee.
Battaglia and Randolph have turned up new evidence that points to Peltier being railroaded — something that anyone who investigates the case has long discovered.
I visited Peltier three times in the federal prison at Leavenworth, Kan. before he was transferred to Terre Haute, Ind. then to Lewisburg, Penn. and now is in the maximum security prison at Coleman, Fla.
Over the years various individuals and “defence committees” have protested Peltier’s continuing incarceration. The likes of Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Dalai Lama, the European Parliament, 50 Canadian MPs are among those who’ve urged his release.
Twenty years ago, Robert Redford made Incident at Oglala(itls) about Peltier’s case, and now Preston Randolph of Cactus Productions has broken new ground with Wind Chases the Sun.
When FBI agents Jack Coler and Ron Williams were killed in a firefight, Peltier and two other Indians of the American Indian Movement were charged. Peltier fled to Canada. Had he gone on trial with the other two, he’d have been found not guilty as they were — acting in self-defence.
Peltier was extradited from Canada on the false and perjured testimony of Myrtle Poor Bear who claimed to be his girlfriend and had witnessed the shooting when, in fact, she didn’t know Peltier and was nowhere near the shooting. The FBI had coerced her testimony.
Battaglia and Randolph turned up evidence of more coerced testimony when they found a hand-written letter by a prosecution witness, Angie Long Visitor, refuting her testimony that she’d witnessed the shooting. She insisted she didn’t see anything and simply wanted the FBI to leave her alone.
Three other witnesses — Norman Brown, Wish Draper and Mike Anderson — have insisted they were coerced into falsely testifying against Peltier.
In fact, the FBI and police were determined to have someone found guilty of killing the agents — and it didn’t matter who, so long as it was someone.
And Peltier has been treated abominably in prison.
Battaglia notes that when a Scottish woman mailed him a 20-pound note for his defence fund, Peltier tried to mail it to a supporter outside. His letter was apprehended and Peltier sentenced to three-months in solitary confinement for mailing currency. How the original letter with the currency got through to him in the first place is unexplained.
Peltier received another three months in the “hole” when an electrical wire was found in the upper bunk of his cell — when he slept in the lower bunk, because his arthritic knees prevented him from climbing.
The film is for the first time publicly exposing the harassment toward Peltier through the prison system. Testimony by former prison guards deploring the “harsh,” unwarranted treatment of him in these two cases, as well as his 36 years of imprisonment are revealing of governmental misconduct throughout his incarceration.
When I used to visit him, he couldn’t get treatment for his jaw which seemed to be atrophying and he could barely open his mouth. Also he has diabetes and now early signs of prostate cancer.
Throughout Peltier’s trial, key evidence was withheld from his jury, including ballistics evidence debunking the prosecution’s theory. Over 135,000 pages of information were withheld from Peltier’s defence, and still thousands of pages are not being released.
Forgotten in the ongoing vendetta against Peltier is the mood in America at the time of Pine Ridge and Wounded Knee — a time of political unease, with the American Indian Movement deemed a terrorist group, when it was simply for Indian rights.
Peltier is not a criminal. He was an Indian rights activist, and even if he was guilty, he should have long ago been freed or granted amnesty. He’s paid the price.
That is why this film is important. Wind Chases the Sun(itls) may be Peltier’s last chance for freedom. Even though his spirit remains strong, his health, at age 67, is deteriorating.