29 June 2006 Edition

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International: Leonard Peltier - eligible for parole in 2008

Peltier campaign steps up In Ireland

In May An Phoblacht published a feature article on the case of Native American Leonard Peltier who was imprisoned following a shoot-out between Native American activists and FBI officers in Oglala on the Pine Ridge reservation.

The conflict between the American Indian Movement and the FBI and United States Government resulted in the loss of life for two agents and a Native American activist in 1975.

The subsequent arrest, conviction and incarceration of Leonard Peltier in what many have pointed out was a miscarriage of justice, led to a long campaign for his release. There have long been allegations of political intervention, and manipulation.

Peltier remains a political prisoner and now approaches the beginning of a fourth decade in jail. Many see his continued incarceration as a crime against indigenous peoples.

This week, DAVE BAILEY, represntative of the Leonard Peltier Defence Committee (LPDC) in Ireland describes how the campaign for Peltier's release is being stepped up here.

The Leonard Peltier campaign is curently engaged in an effort to rebuild and renew support. Peltier is eligible for parole in the year 2008. He has been flatly refused parole in the past without the Parole Board even looking at the facts of his case. Their reason for refusing parole is that he has failed to show remorse for a crime he and his supporters maintain he did not commit.

Peltier has, in fact, expressed his sorrow that the incident in which three men were killed ever happened. The third person killed that day, was AIM member Joe "Killsright" Stuntz. To date, I've yet to see, hear, or read a government representative express remorse over his murder. It is essential that an international movement of support for Leonard Peltier begins to form their voices now so that the Parole Board will have no choice but to listen to our cries for justice in 2008.

Robideau meets Adams

In order to accomplish this task, new and renewed support is being solicited. It was in that capacity that Leonard Peltier's cousin, co-defendant, fellow Oglala survivor, and long-standing AIM member Bob Robideau came to Ireland. While here, he spoke in Dublin, Derry and Belfast. At one point, he had a brief meeting with Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams at which he outlined what is needed from the Irish for Leonard Peltier. During the meeting, Gerry Adams made a touching gesture by presenting Robideau, on Leonard Peltier's behalf, with a wooden plaque featuring the images of the Hunger Strikers from 1981. In response, Bob Robideau, who is almost as well known as a traditional Native artist as he is for being a traditional Native activist, took a bear and eagle claw necklace from around his neck and presented it to Adams. Strength. Solidarity. Two warriors who'd each been incarcerated for their beliefs shared a moment of mutual respect that solidifies, in my mind, the ever present feeling that the struggle for Irish liberation directly parallels the struggle for Native nations in America who, like people in the North of Ireland are occupied by a foreign invasion force.

However, handshakes, warm feelings, and expressions of solidarity are not enough. We need very real, very concrete, and very immediate action and we only have two years to get it.

All-party Dáil meeting

I have recently been appointed as the officially designated Representative for the Leonard Peltier Defence Committee in Ireland and England. In that position, I hope to accomplish several things which will greatly enable and enhance Leonard's chances of either receiving parole or clemency in 2008. I am currently negotiating an all-party meeting of representatives in the Dáil in the interest of introducing a proposal that the Irish government pass an official resolution calling for the immediate release of Leonard Peltier.

Many countries have already done this, as did the European Parliament prior to the formation of the European Union. In addition, it is my hope that the many political parties, as well as notable names in Irish politics, will pass similar resolutions in addition to writing letters of support for Leonard Peltier. Likewise, it is believed that Irish political groups have the potential of convincing the British parliament and Prime Minister Tony Blair to recognise Leonard Peltier as a political prisoner and draft their own resolution calling for his release.

Working for Leonard Peltier's release is not limited to elected officials or political movers and shakers. Every single Irish person, and in fact, every single person from any country, can write letters of support for Mr. Peltier. Letters can be written to urge governments to pass formal resolutions in support of Leonard Peltier, as well as utilise their communication links with the US Government in order to pressure it to release Peltier.

Support action

Individuals can write to the US Government directly, to Leonard Peltier directly, as well as find out through the LPDC how they can organize Leonard Peltier Support Groups in their own areas. In Ireland and England, as LPDC Representative, I will be more than happy to discuss the campaign for Leonard Peltier with anyone who wishes to get involved, be it in a support group or simply as an individual.

On Sunday, 21 May 2006, Richard McIlkenny of the Birmingham Six died aged 73 following a long illness. McIlkenny was charged for a bomb attack in Birmingham, England, in 1974. He along with five others were wrongfully tortured, tried, and convicted. In 1991, the convictions of the Birmingham Six were overturned and they were released from prison. As it turned out, the only crime they committed was the crime of being Irish in an English city. It was a crime for which the Birmingham Six served sixteen years in prison.

It was said that Richard McIlkenny never truly returned home, that he was never really free. One can only imagine the trauma he endured. It only goes to illustrate the depths of the damage done by official governments when they imprison a man who is guilty of nothing. The toll it takes on him or her, their families, and their friends can never be completely undone. Even after being released from prison, you simply can not give back to someone the years of their lives that were taken away. In that sense, justice can never be served for Leonard Peltier. No one knows how long it may take Leonard Peltier to adjust to outside life, to feel free, or to be the vibrant and jovial part of his families and friends' lives as he was once before. One thing I do know is this. The longer he is allowed to sit in prison, the longer it will take him to become 'de-institutionalised' on the outside. This is why we have to act, and act fast. We can not allow an aging and unhealthy man to die in prison. As Indian people, we have history books full of martyrs. We don't need another one! What we need is for Leonard Peltier to be home with his family so that he can enjoy what's left of his life. We need him to be sitting surrounded by loved ones, bouncing an ever increasing stream of grandchildren on his knee. We need him to be home, where he should be, where he should have always been.

For more information on how you can help Leonard Peltier, e-mail me at "Dave Bailey" . Contact the LPDC at: [email protected]. A library of useful information, is available at the official web-site of the Leonard Peltier Defence Committee. That address is: www.leonardpeltier.net.

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