Dozens of the supporters of American Indian activist Leonard Peltier have gathered in Rapid City in the US Midwest to call for a review of his case and his release from prison.
Rapid City, IOWA -- The group gathered in the South Dakota city on Friday to pray for Peltier's release, saying that he is innocent and was framed by the FBI because of his political activities.
James Swan, the head of the Black Hills chapter of the United Urban Warrior Society -- a nonprofit group that helps American Indians fight racial discrimination and injustice -- who took part in the gathering, described Peltier as a political prisoner whose case needs to be reviewed by an independent body.
"What we want people to realize is that this is an injustice," AP quoted Swan as saying.
Peltier, 66, was convicted and sentenced to two life sentences in 1977 on charges that he killed two FBI agents.
Peltier asserts that he is innocent and that the FBI framed him for political reasons, especially his activities as a member of the American Indian Movement. He has lodged numerous appeals against the conviction but all of them have been unsuccessful.
He has been denied parole and will not be eligible for it again until 2024, when he turns 79.
According to Peltier's relatives, he suffers a number of health problems such as diabetes, arthritis, and the loss of vision in one eye following a minor stroke.
Many activists say Leonard Peltier is the most important political prisoner in the United States.
In the review of the human rights record of the United States at the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) conference in Geneva, one group called for a new trial for Leonard Peltier.
The U.S. Human Rights Network (USHRN) filed a 423-page submission to the Geneva meeting -- actually, 23 separate position papers bound together with a 15-page “overarching report,” or executive summary, Fox News reported
The UN Human Rights Council reviewed the human rights situation in the United States in Geneva on Friday at its Universal Periodic Review conference, which opened on November 1 and runs until November 12
One of the papers, entitled “Political Repression-Political Prisoners,” about cases in the 1970s, indicts the FBI, accusing its Operation COINTELPRO of “maiming, murdering, false prosecutions and frame-ups, destruction and mayhem throughout the country,”
It cites the FBI for targeting the Puerto Rican Independence Front, the Black Panther Party, the Weather Underground, the American Indian Movement, the Black Liberation Army, as well as “peace activists and everyone in between,” and says that “many of today's political prisoners” in the U.S. were jailed indefinitely as a result. That repression has increased since 9/11, the paper argues.
The political repression paper demands an “immediate criminal investigation into the conspiracy,” and also new trials for two now-aged activists jailed on murder charges, Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier.