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Turn Over FBI Files! Free Leonard Peltier!

May 11, 2007

From the Workers Vanguard No. 888

peltier.jpgThe struggle for American Indian Movement (AIM) leader Leonard Peltier’s freedom suffered a double blow last month when two of his legal challenges for release of FBI files were turned down. In separate lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York and Judge Donovan W. Frank of the District of Minnesota kept under government seal thousands of FBI documents, once again covering up the racist frame-up that has already stolen 30 years of the life of this courageous fighter for the oppressed.

Leonard Peltier and the radical AIM were targets of the FBI’s sinister and deadly COINTELPRO activities in the 1970s because they resisted the enforced poverty, unending humiliation and racist oppression meted out by the U.S. government. The Oglala Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation was a war zone into which the FBI and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) poured hundreds of agents, supplemented by trained and armed thugs, in order to terrorize and crush Native American activists. On 26 June 1975, the FBI, BIA and local cops launched a brutal attack. At its peak, 250 Feds surrounded 30 AIM militants and their supporters. In the firefight, the FBI lost two agents.

Peltier, who fled to Canada, and three others were charged with the agents’ deaths. Charges were dropped against one of the three, and the two others were acquitted in 1976 by a Cedar Rapids, Iowa jury, who stated they had not believed “much of anything” said by government witnesses and that it seemed “pretty much a clear-cut case of self-defense.” Peltier was extradited from Canada and his trial moved to Fargo, North Dakota, a town with strong bias against Native Americans. On 18 April 1977, he was convicted by an all-white jury. At his sentencing, Peltier denounced the judge for his privileged position in the racist establishment that had gone “about the business of murdering my people and attempting to destroy our culture.” The judge then sentenced Peltier to two consecutive life terms. And although a federal attorney in a later proceeding would admit that the government did not know who shot the agents, every legal door has been slammed in Peltier’s face.

Last month’s decisions illustrate the capitalist rulers’ determination to keep buried the dirty workings of their secret police. It has been known for years that the government withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense during Peltier’s trial, including ballistics tests showing that his gun was not used in the shooting. In 2001, Peltier’s lawyers learned that there were some 140,000 pages in his FBI files and initiated a series of FOIA lawsuits. Peltier has strong reason to believe that the files would provide evidence of government attempts to infiltrate the original defense team. However, the Second Circuit decision exempted the FBI from having to reveal a “confidential source” or the information the source provided.

In the Minnesota decision, Judge Frank, a Clinton appointee, declared misconduct by the FBI to be “irrelevant” and admonished Peltier’s attorneys to prove that the FBI is acting in “bad faith,” all the while denying access to the documents that could indisputably prove it! Frank dismissed Peltier’s efforts to reverse his conviction as “not the core purpose of the FOIA,” which he said is governed by “the public interest standard.” What he means is the bourgeois rulers’ interest in condemning this fighter for Native American rights to a life of prison hell.

Now 62, Peltier has developed diabetes and high blood pressure and has already suffered a stroke, which left him partially blind in one eye. Peltier has been part of the Partisan Defense Committee’s program of stipends to class-war prisoners since 2005. The PDC and Spartacist League support the dogged pursuit of every legal opening, while placing no faith in the justice of the capitalist courts. We are dedicated to building a revolutionary movement based on the social power of the working class which, in struggling for power against this brutal and vicious ruling class, will win freedom for its class-war victims. Free Leonard Peltier!

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To learn more about supporting Leonard Peltier’s defense, visit the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee Web site: Write to Leonard Peltier, #89637-132, USP Lewisburg, P.O. Box 1000, Lewisburg, PA 17837. For more information about the PDC:

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