After being repeatedly denied parole during his nearly four decades of federal imprisonment, 71-year-old Leonard Peltier still fights with the hope that President Barack Obama will grant him clemency—but he doesn’t think the chances are high.
“I am prepared to die here,” he said in a new exclusive interview with the New York Daily News. “I would prefer it be back at my home, but I’m a realistic about my chances,”
In 1977, the Native activist was convicted of killing two federal agents during a 1975 armed standoff between the FBI, other law enforcement agencies and American Indian Movement (AIM) members at South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Peltier admitted during the interview to firing back at agents, though he says to this day that he didn’t kill them: ”I’ve given the same answer for 40 years. I didn’t do it and I won’t say that I did. I won’t betray my people like that, I won’t betray my culture.”
Many of Peltier’s supporters believe, as the Daily News details, that Peltier fell victim to the FBI’s COINTELPRO-era surveillance and profiling. Analysis of his trial and internal memos suggest that the FBI constructed a trial—away from Native lands, with an all-White jury and prohibition of self-defense arguments that acquitted other involved AIM members—that would guarantee a disproportionate sentence.
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