– By Dan O’Muirigh
Friday past, members of Sinn Féin Republican Youth Béal Feirste joined a white line picket protest in support of Leonard Peltier.
Peltier, a Native American, has spent the last 40 years of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit. Born on 12 September 1944, he has spent more time in prison than out. It is inconceivable that a man of innocence can endure such a long period of time behind bars.
Prior to his arrest and conviction, Peltier was a leading member of the American Indian Movement, aiming to upheld the rights of Native American Indians. Come 1975, he was involved in a confrontation comprising members of the AIM. In the process, two FBI agents, Ronald Williams and Jack Coler, were shot dead. Only a matter of months later, Peltier was convicted of both murders, despite his innocence. The odds were stacked heavily against him, with an anti-Indian judge assigned to preside over the trial. Prosecutors and federal agents manufactured evidence against him, hid proof of his innocence, presented false testimony obtained through torturous interrogation techniques, ignored court orders and lied to the jury.
To begin with, the FBI claimed Peltier was the man responsible for pulling the trigger. Overtime, they bizarrely changed their claim against Peltier, saying now that he instead aided and abetted the murder. This was nonsense and was a clear indication of the immediate flaws of the persecution. The judge assigned even himself said that he was “uncomfortable” with the decision to prosecute him. It was apparent then that Peltier was innocent and overtime his innocence became infatuated, cataclysed by the FBI’s refusal to release 6,000 documents in relation to the case.
While in prison, on an anniversary of the two FBI agents’ deaths, Peltier was placed in isolation, with the temperature raised to around 120 degrees. This was on top of his spiraling medical ailments while his own lawyers were not informed of such a move to isolation for a week. This blatantly constitutes torture on the prisons behalf.
World renowned figures, such as Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have supported his release from prison, while Amnesty International, along with a myriad of other human rights organisations, have campaigned vigorously for his release.
We here in Ireland have a proud reputation of promoting human rights and demanding action against injustice not only in our own land but abroad as well, such as in Palestine and in the Basque Country. It is imperative upon us to offer our solidarity in this desperate time of need for Leonard Peltier, a present hero facing the injustices of America. He is a man who has spent a decade longer in jail than Nelson Mandela did.
There is only one person who can grant the freedom of Peltier; Barack Obama. Come the end of his administration he can grant clemency to prisoners. People power and political pressure can ensure that Peltier is on that list. We must campaign in support and stand in solidarity with our comrade to right this wrong. Everybody has their role to play and it is up to us to show that we can.
“Only one thing’s sadder that remembering you were once free, and that’s forgetting you were once free.” – Leonard Peltier
We would also encourage anyone who has read this to personally contact Peltier himself with a letter. In this vital time in need, our solidarity is paramount. Let him know he’s not alone.
LEONARD PELTIER #89637-132 USP COLEMAN 1 U.S. PENITENTIARY P.O. BOX 1033 COLEMAN, FL 3352