UN group calls for release of Leonard Peltier, alleges anti-Native American bias in extended jail term – InForum

NEW YORK — A United Nations document calls on the United States to release a Native American activist who was convicted of murdering two FBI agents in a controversial trial.

In a 17-page document made public last month, a United Nations Human Rights Council Arbitrary Detention Working Group said the US government should release Leonard Peltier. He also said the country should conduct an independent investigation to determine if Native American rights have been violated.

Peltier was convicted in 1977 of the murders of FBI special agents Ronald Arthur Williams and Jack Ross Coler in a June 1975 shooting at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The trial took place in Fargo.

Two of his co-defendants were found not guilty for self-defense.

Although he provided alibis indicating he had no part in the shooting, Peltier, who was part of the American Indian Movement to protect Native Americans from civil rights abuses and racism, was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.

Peltier, 77, is being held in a Florida prison.

Some have alleged trial misconduct in the Peltier case, including allegations that witnesses were coerced into testifying against him.

The task force alleged that the FBI targeted Peltier because of his political activism in promoting Native American rights and said Bureau agents harassed Peltier prior to his arrest.

The group questioned several aspects of Peltier’s legal process, including why his case was not overseen by a judge who presided over the trials of his co-defendants. Instead, his case was assigned to a judge whose previous criminal case had been overturned due to the use of anti-Native American stereotypes in jury instructions, according to the document.

The UN group also alleged that Peltier had not been properly assessed for parole and that his incarceration had been arbitrarily extended. The document attributed this, in part, to an anti-Native American bias.

The US government denied violating Peltier’s rights, according to the document.

The UN document notes that Peltier has multiple health issues that cannot be addressed appropriately while incarcerated. He contracted COVID-19 in January and is at “increased risk of death” due to complications from the virus, according to the document.

“Mr. Peltier poses no threat to anyone,” the document states. “There is no legitimate aim for the government to maintain his detention. To do so, despite the lack of a legitimate aim, amounts to arbitrary detention. …”

Former President Bill Clinton considered granting clemency to Peltier in 2000, but it was protested when about 500 FBI agents marched near the White House. The decision was passed on to several presidents until former President Barack Obama refused clemency from Peltier in 2017.

“The Association of FBI Agents will continue to counter efforts by Mr. Peltier’s legal and public relations team to present him as something other than what Leonard Peltier really is: a remorseless, blood-blooded killer. cold,” said Thomas O’, then president of the Association of FBI Agents. Connor said in a statement after Obama’s decision. “Mr. Peltier should stay in prison and not be shown a mercy that he refused to offer Agents Coler and Williams in 1975, and has refused their families and friends for the past four decades.

The FBI did not respond to an email seeking comment on this story.

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