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Longtime political prisoner Leonard Peltier (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe), a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), was denied parole on Tuesday. The denial came from an announcement by the U.S. Parole Commission. 

The decision comes on the heels of Peltier’s June 10, 2024, parole healing, his first in 15 years. The hearing was held before the U.S. Parole Commission examiner inside the United States Penitentiary, Coleman, a high-security prison, in Coleman, Fla., where Peltier is serving two consecutive life sentences for the killing of two FBI agents, Jack R. Coler and Ronald A. Williams, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975.

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Peltier, 79, has been imprisoned for nearly 50 years; he has maintained his innocence throughout his incarceration. Today’s decision comes in spite of strong evidence that he received an unfair trial. 

The aging Peltier is in poor health. He suffers from multiple health issues and has to use a walker to maneuver the maximum-security prison. He also suffers from diabetes, blindness in one eye, and an aortic aneurysm. As with other elders, his advanced age has rendered him frail. 

Peltier’s attorney, former U.S. district judge Kevin Sharp, said on Tuesday the parole commission recommended the federal Bureau of Prisons review Peltier's medical records and assess whether he should be transferred to a medical facility the agency operates. In a press release, Sharp emphasized that the fight for Peltier's freedom is long from over.

“Today’s announcement continues the injustice of this long ordeal for Leonard Peltier," Sharp said.  "This decision is a missed opportunity for the United States to finally recognize the misconduct of the FBI and send a message to Indian Country regarding the impacts of the federal government’s actions and policies of the 1970s. Our work to ensure Leonard Peltier is free will not stop. We will immediately begin an appeal to the Parole Commission’s Appeals Board and in federal court. I have not lost hope that Leonard Peltier will one day be free."

Paul O’Brien, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, also made a statement on Peltier's denied parole.
“Continuing to keep Leonard Peltier locked behind bars is a human rights travesty," O’Brien, said. "President Biden should grant him clemency and release him immediately. Not only are there ongoing, unresolved concerns about the fairness of his trial, he has spent nearly 50 years in prison, is approaching 80 years old, and suffers from several chronic health problems.   

Peltier will be eligible for another parole hearing in 2026. He will turn 80 on September 12, 2024.

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