Congressional Briefing for Leonard Peltier
Washington, DC – May 17, 2000
Transcript: Carlos Salinas, Amnesty International
Introduction: Carlos Salinas is the acting legislative director for Amnesty International here in Washington, DC — and he is going to give us Amnesty International’s perspective on the case.
I have been asked to be brief and I think I will actually achieve that. Amnesty International is an independent worldwide movement working impartially for the release of all prisoners of conscience, fair and prompt trials for political prisoners, and an end to torture and executions.
Just last April, Amnesty International called for the immediate and unconditional release of Leonard Peltier — an Anishinabeg-Lakota Indian and a leading member of the American Indian Movement. Peltier was serving two consecutive life sentences at Leavenworth Penitentiary for the murders of two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, who were killed on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of South Dakota in 1975. Court and parole application decisions over the years failed to dispel substantial and lingering doubts about the fairness of the legal proceedings against Mr. Peltier.
Amnesty International has reviewed this case extensively over many years. We have sent observers to his trial in 1977 and to subsequent appeal and evidentiary hearings in 1978, 1983, 1984, 1985, and 1991. Indeed Amnesty International has long expressed concerns about the fairness of Peltier’s trial in 1977 and the subsequent hearings which we have witnessed ourselves. Some of the points that we have noted: (1) the FBI knowingly used perjured testimony to obtain Peltier’s extradition from Canada to the United States, (2) Peltier’s attorneys were denied the right to call relevant defense witnesses, and (3) prosecutors withheld vital evidence. Amnesty International is further concerned that Peltier’s political activities and beliefs may have influenced the circumstances of his arrest and subsequent trial. Amnesty International for many years advocated that Leonard Peltier should be granted a fair retrial. We are disappointed at the authorities’ failure to initiate such a proceeding.
At this point after so many years of imprisonment and having exhausted all available legal appeals we recognize a retrial is no longer a feasible option.
Leonard Peltier has now spent 23 years in prison. Amnesty International considers Leonard Peltier to be a political prisoner and again we further recognize that the legal redress opportunities have been exhausted. The United States Government continues to deny request for a special executive review; Amnesty International believes that Leonard Peltier should be immediately and unconditionally released.
Thank you very much.