WASHINGTON – To mark his 72nd birthday today, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) released a new video urging President Obama to grant clemency to Anishinabe-Lakota Native American activist Leonard Peltier before leaving office. The video highlights Amnesty International’s human rights concerns about Peltier’s case and is narrated by actor Peter Coyote. Amnesty International has joined Indigenous activists, human and civil rights groups, and Peltier’s family and friends to call for his release.
Peltier has been imprisoned for 40 years serving two consecutive life sentences, despite the fact that the legal processes surrounding his extradition, conviction, and post-conviction have been riddled with flaws. Amnesty International and legal experts who have studied the case have raised serious concerns about his conviction. In the years since, Peltier has repeatedly been denied parole and exhausted all of this legal remedies, despite evidence of coerced testimony and withholding of key ballistics evidence at trial. Peltier is now 72 years old and in poor health.
“The moment for action is decades overdue in this case. Leonard Peltier is 72 and in failing health. As President Obama approaches his last few months in office and continues to announce record-breaking numbers of commutations, it is crucial that he grant Leonard Peltier clemency. Despite the political factors which may have influenced the way the case was prosecuted, Leonard Peltier has remained in prison all these years. He is not eligible for parole again until 2024,” said Zeke Johnson, Managing Director, Individuals at Risk program. “President Obama now has the opportunity to bring some measure of closure to a case that has troubled many people for decades.”
When arrested, Peltier was a leading member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), an activist group involved in promoting the rights of Indigenous people during a period of intense conflict in the 1970s. In 1975, during a confrontation involving AIM members, two FBI agents were shot dead. In the two years prior to the confrontation in which the two FBI agents were killed, more than 60 Native Americans on the Pine Ridge reservation had been killed – allegedly by paramilitary squads connected to the tribal government – without anyone being brought to justice for these crimes.
Amnesty International USA has chosen Peltier’s case as one of 12 cases for the organization’s annual Write for Rights event, the world’s largest human rights letter writing event. Every year, culminating around Human Rights Day on December 10th, Amnesty International organizes hundreds of thousands of people worldwide to write letters on behalf of people at risk of human rights violations.