>Wednesday, November 15, 2000 >CLEMENCY AT HAND? >Clinton may aid Canuck serving 2 life terms >By PETER WORTHINGTON, TORONTO SUN > >"On election day, Nov. 7, U.S. President Bill Clinton pledged to personally >review the case of Leonard Peltier for possible executive clemency "in the >last 10 weeks of office after the election." > >He made the promise to Amy Goodman on the radio show, Democracy Now, which >is syndicated to stations across America. > >It is the most encouraging signal yet that Peltier might get executive >clemency after being found guilty in the deaths of two FBI agents in 1975, >during a violent range war on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reserve, near >Wounded Knee. While urging support for Al Gore, Clinton told Goodman he >didn't have a position on clemency for Peltier "that I can announce yet," >but did say he'll review the case "and will try to do what I think the right >thing to do is." > >IMPORTANT > >He said the case was important to a lot of people "and I owe it to them to >give it an honest look-see." He said he'd also review what those who oppose >clemency have to say, and "decide one way or the other" before the >inauguration. > >Interpret that as you will, but the fact that Clinton is commenting at all >gives optimism to Peltier supporters -- and makes the FBI nervous. > >Prior to the election there was growing euphoria among Leonard Peltier >Defence Committees (LPDC) around the world that "something big, something >good" is likely to happen in the hiatus between the election of a new >president and his inauguration in January. > >A couple of weeks before the U.S. vote, there was no significant >development: Myrtle Poor Bear, the Indian woman whose sworn affidavits got >Peltier extradited from Canada to stand trial in the U.S., came to Toronto >and not only recanted her affidavits before a Canadian judge, but swore that >the FBI held her incommunicado for nine months after the deaths of the FBI >agents. > >THREATS > >She testified agents threatened and intimidated her into signing (but not >reading) three different and often contradictory affidavits that she was >Peltier's girlfriend and that she'd witnessed him kill agents Ron Williams >and Jack Coler on June 25, 1975 at Wounded Knee. > >It turns out she'd never been to that area in her life, was at home 75 km >away washing clothes at the time (her sister Elaine's sworn testimony) and >that she wasn't Peltier's girlfriend and had never laid eyes on him in her >life. > >She swore the FBI agents wrote the affidavits, wouldn't let her read them, >and said she'd be killed unless she signed. > >She had recanted the affidavits during Peltier's trial, but the judge >wouldn't let the jury hear her evidence. In fact, no jury has ever heard her >testimony. She's never spoken for the record until now. > >At age 22, Poor Bear had mental and drinking problems, and was used by the >FBI only to get Peltier extradited from Canada. Then she was dumped. Earlier >this year, Justice Minister Anne McClellan insisted the extradition, based >on the perjured affidavit, was fair and proper -- contrary to a review by >former Solicitor-General Warren Allmand, who found that the system was >abused and Peltier railroaded. > >Back in the 1970s I thought Peltier guilty, and wrote editorials to this >effect. I've since looked into his case and believe he was framed. I've >visited the Ojibwa-Sioux Indian three times in the federal prison at >Leavenworth, Kan., now in his 25th year of two consecutive life sentences. > >During the troubles at Pine Ridge, there were some 200 shootings, and 60 >unsolved shooting deaths of Indians over a three-year period. > >To many, Peltier is a fall guy -- a North American Nelson Mandela, serene >and dignified. Even the FBI has since admitted they don't know who actually >killed the two agents. > > >From the start, Peltier's case was grotesquely mishandled. Just about every >deceit a justice system can perpetrate has been used against him. Various >judges have determined that justice (not to mention law) was abused. > >ACQUITTED > >Two Indians initially charged with the murder of the FBI agents were >acquitted on grounds of self-defence. > >Poor Bear and her sister Elaine testified under oath before former Quebec >Court of Appeal Judge Fred Kaufman during the extradition hearings. She was >examined by Michael Code, former assistant deputy attorney-general of >Ontario, and former federal prosecutor Scott Stanton. The videotape of her >testimony (and possibly Judge Kaufman's assessment) will be forwarded to >President Clinton as part of an amnesty submission, as well as to the >Canadian government. > >The unusual hearing was coordinated by Dianne Martin, a professor at the >Osgoode Hall law school and a member of the LPDC, which is headed in Toronto >by Frank and Anne Dreaver. > >In sometimes halting and emotional testimony, Poor Bear told how FBI agents >Dave Price and Bill Wood kept her isolated for close to nine months, taking >her to the scene of the shootings, coaching her and insisting witnesses saw >her at the murder scene. > >Myrtle was told she'd be killed by the American Indian Movement (AIM) unless >they protected her, and that if she didn't cooperate she might be charged >with conspiracy and get 15 years if she didn't sign the affidavits. > >Myrtle signed a series of three affidavits compiled by the FBI, the first >saying she wasn't at the scene but that Leonard told her, the others saying >she witnessed the murders. All were false. No action was ever taken against >the agents. > >Before Peltier's trial was over, Myrtle recanted her perjury, but no jury >ever heard it. > >Myrtle Poor Bear says she's testifying for clemency to atone for the harm >she did to Peltier, and hopes he can forgive her: "I was frightened, the FBI >scared me, for years I've wanted for years to undo damage I did. I was weak, >but I felt I had no choice. I feared for my life." > >Peltier has repeatedly told me he holds no animosity towards Poor Bear. >"She's an unfortunate woman caught in a trap by those determined to find >someone guilty -- even someone they know in their hearts didn't do it." > >Myrtle testified that Agent Price wrote the stuff she had to memorize in a >notebook. She was coached until she got it right. > >DEMONIZED > >In the mid-'70s, AIM was demonized by the FBI as a communist terrorist group >instead of an Indian rights group -- complicated by the fact that Moscow and >Cuba used AIM for propaganda purposes. > >As an oddity, the FBI had Myrtle sign another affidavit that she was the >girl friend of one Dick Marshall, and that he'd confessed to her that he >shot and killed another Indian, Martin Montileaux, in 1975. Myrtle's false >affidavit was almost a carbon copy of the one she signed about Peltier, and >helped get Marshall convicted. > >During her testimony in Toronto, she insisted she'd never taken a lie >detector test that the FBI claimed she'd passed. Over the years, the Poor >Bear affidavits remain infamous examples of FBI deceit and fabrication -- >acts more inconceivable 25 years ago than today, when many examples have >American justice being corrupted have emerged. > >A succession of U.S. judges have blasted the FBI's abuses, causing the FBI >and its supporters to close ranks, attack critics and oppose clemency -- >even though Peltier has been a model prisoner. > >At age 60, Peltier has had a stroke, is partially blind and is a symbol for >major Indian organizations in Canada and the U.S., who have joined forces to >urge clemency. > >If clemency is finally granted, as some think (hope) is now inevitable, it >won't reflect credit on Canada where a succession of governments have not >only ignored Peltier's case, but have been collaborators and conspirators in >fabrication and framing him." > >Copyright 2000, Canoe Limited Partnership.
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