Miscarriage of justice about Leonard Peltier a Sioux Indian in USA. Leonard Peltier was 78 years old on Sep. 12th last. He has been a political prisoner for almost half-a-century since he was arrested in Canada in February 1976 and extradited to USA and charged with first-degree double murder. Such a charge was based on unreliable proofs so much so that after the gaol sentence the Canadian Government presented a formal protest to USA.
Peltier is an Ojibwa Lakota, an Indian tribe in North America popularly better known as Sioux and was one of the founders of the AIM (America Indian Movement). He is a symbol of a resistance that has lasted for more than five hundred years. His legal battle is well known and has been recounted in several books, films and articles by “The Manifesto”.
It is precisely because of his indomitable resistance to the political power and violence of the “blue jackets” that Peltier became the perfect scapegoat of a shambolic and indecent political conspiracy in the USA that provoked indignation around the world from Robert De Niro and Bruce Springsteen to the people in Val di Susa (Italy) where the local people named the presidium of “San Didero “after him.
The shambolic political farce of his arrest and conviction that has been going on for a whole life has discredited and shamed every institutional authority in the USA that prides itself to be a “free country”.
Leonard Peltier has been in gaol for the last 46 years and is the emblem of political prisoners and indigenous minorities.
In the first ten days of October inst., a delegation of the International Leonard Peltier Defence Committee was due to arrive in Europe. Such a Committee, formed by Jean Roach, Loan Knight and Carol Gone who for years have been defending Peltier, would also visit some Italian cities starting from Milan.
The cycle of conferences in support of Peltier had its conclusion in Geneva in a meeting with representatives of the United Nations.
It all started on 26th June 1975 at Pine Ridge, a territory of the Oglata Lakota, one of the largest and poorest Indian Reserves in the USA.
At that time, there were strong tensions, clashes and continuous aggressions against the indigenous communities, mainly by the “Goons” armed bands on other indigenous people bought and organised by the USA Government aimed at quelling struggles for human rights claims by AIM. On that day, without any warning whatsoever, two men in a car without a number plate broke into the Reserve and started shooting indiscriminately.
Afterwards it was discovered that they were FBI agents on a search for an Indian who had allegedly stolen a pair of boots! Obviously, it was a pack of lies and, most probably, it was a provocation that resulted in an armed clash that in a few minutes would have brought hundred of armed agents on the scene. The shooting that ensued was chaotic, leaving on the ground two-provocateur agents and an Indian dead. There was no concern or investigation about the Indian man left killed on the ground, owing to the great number of Indians who now and then at the time were killed without making any fuss. Whereas for the two agents who had been shot dead, somebody had to pay heavily.
The thirty-two year old AIM activist, Leonard Peltier, became the obvious and perfect scapegoat.
In an interview released some time later Peltier revealed: “I was threatened with guns in my face when I tried to film a road block by a Goon squad. On another occasion, the Goons who were trying to convince the press that I was a sympathiser of AIM threw me against a wall. The brakes of my car were cut and on another occasion a high powered gun made a big hole in the car I was travelling in. But my experience pales away before the beatings, the incendiary bombs and the car shootings that were responsible in that period for the killing of 28 Indians who have not been accounted yet. My Oglala Sioux tribe has repeatedly, but in vain, presented petitions to the Federal Government to re-open those cases.”
The arrest of Peltier took place in Canada on the following 6th February, but the extradition was obtained with proofs so laughable that later on the Canadian Government formally protested to the USA.
Peltier was condemned in 1976 to two life sentences after a court case marked by discrimination and prejudice, where he was accused of the murder of the two FBI agents Ronald A. Williams and Jack R. Coler.
In spite of an accurate ballistic report by the FBI itself that proved that the bullets could not have come from the gun of the leader of AIM, the fate of Ojibwa Lakota was sealed. The court proceedings in fact were all a farce that reinforced a pre-written script as all the Court jury were white.
In 2003 the judges of the 10th Section declared:” The Government behaviour in the Reserve of Pine Ridge as regards Mr Peltier is to be utterly condemned.
The Government has ignored the proofs of what actually happened and has threatened witnesses. These facts are undeniable”.
Hundreds of ordinary citizens, Associations and committees around the world have supported the cause of Peltier by collecting millions of signatures and by subscribing Appeals. Some celebrities such as Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, David Sassoli, Robert De Niro, Robbie Robertson, Bruce Springsteen and many others have taken interest in the case and shown concern. Some institutions too such as the European Parliament and Amnesty International too have supported the case of Peltier.
Details of this tragic state of affairs of Mr Peltier have been collected and presented in 1998 by Michael Apted in his film/documentary “Incident at Oglala”.
In one of his many letters from his prison Peltier has denounced his situation in the following words:” In Indian lands all over the world, there are people who struggle all the time for freedom. The USA has more people in gaol that any other country. Our judiciary system is now an industry and not a way to render justice”. At the threshold of his 80th Birthday, Peltier is heavily exhausted and ill.
Last January he also had Covid something that has frequently happened in American gaols and so his health has deteriorated even further.
In a moving message sent to the supporters of his cause, Leonard Peltier wrote:” I have sacrificed all these years of my life for my people. I am tired. For years, I have hidden my sufferings. I laughed when I felt like crying and dying. I watched my children grow only through photos. I lost the pleasure of spending time with my friends. I lost the joy of walking in forests. I lost my freedom. I beg you not to forget all the people in the world who are oppressed.
I beg you not to forget me tomorrow”.
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