Over the years, these have been many and famous: among them, naturally, the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, as well as Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, the actor Robert Redford, the European Parliament, various national legislatures in Europe, a former UN commissioner for human rights and Amnesty International. Amnesty does not classify Peltier as a prisoner of conscience, but it too is urging that parole be granted, because of doubts about whether his trial was fair and whether political factors played a part in his conviction.
The FBI will have none of this. For US law enforcement, Peltier was, and remains, nothing more than a particularly brutal murderer, who dispatched two of its own men execution-style as they lay wounded and helpless. But whatever precisely happened that summer day long ago, one thing is undeniable. Leonard Peltier is a player in the continuing tragedy of native Americans.
He was an activist in the American Indian Movement (AIM), founded to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1868 Fort Laramie treaty that supposedly guaranteed Lakota ownership of the sacred Black Hills in South Dakota, which were then seized by the US government after the Black Hills gold rush. In its quest to reassert the rights of native Americans, AIM was also inspired by the Black Power movement of African Americans that was gaining momentum at that time; and the Pine Ridge reservation, where the infamous Wounded Knee massacre of 1890 took place, became a focal point of its campaign.
The parole hearing is over. Results expected soon, but parole board has up to 21 days to make its decision known.
We hope for justice, but too many people in power are afraid of yet another embarrassment walking around free to talk to the world press. I am expecting that Peltier will get the same treatment as the torture victims at Guantanamo, life behind bars and away from the eyes of the public.