By Peoples Dispatch

July 2, 2024

 

Longest-held political prisoner in United States and Indigenous freedom fighter continues to maintain innocence.

The federal Parole Commission has denied Leonard Peltier’s request for parole, Peltier’s legal team announced on Tuesday, July 2. This marks a major setback for the longest-held political prisoner in the United States, who had his first parole hearing in over a decade on June 10.

Peltier, who was active in the American Indian Movement (AIM) and a beacon for both the Indigenous struggle in the United States and the struggle to free political prisoners, now will continue to languish in prison for an undetermined amount of time. According to Peltier’s lawyer, Kevin Sharp, an interim hearing has been scheduled for 2026, while a full hearing has been scheduled for June 2039, when Peltier will be 94.

Peltier’s best hope at getting out before he dies is a presidential pardon by Biden, a move which many previous presidents have refused to make on Peltier’s behalf, in part due to significant pressure by the FBI, which has waged a decades-long campaign to keep Peltier in prison for allegedly killing two FBI agents. To this day, Peltier maintains his innocence.

“​​Today is a sad day for Indigenous Peoples and justice everywhere,” said Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of the NDN Collective, an Indigenous organization that has been fighting to free Peltier. “They denied parole to a survivor of genocidal Indian boarding schools as he struggles to survive this unjust incarceration, they insist on holding him for a crime for which they have no physical evidence against him. Clearly, the Parole Commission—which is supposed to be an independent body – was influenced by the FBI. The FBI continues to abuse its power, promote false narratives, and engage in counterintelligence activities. The FBI has no regard for the Constitution or the laws they have sworn an oath to protect.”

Peltier suffers from various ailments due to his confinement in close quarters. Peoples Dispatch spoke to Gloria La Riva, who ran alongside Leonard Peltier in the 2020 US presidential elections on the ticket of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, about Peltier’s condition. “Leonard is confined in a small cell, most of the time being on lockdown, where he can’t even walk properly and have circulation and sunshine and proper food,” she said. Peltier contracted COVID-19 in 2022, and currently has untreated kidney disease, among other ailments. Kevin Sharp has suggested that this was probably Peltier’s “last chance” at parole.

 

-PHOTO: Peltier’s supporters rally in front of Federal Building in Rapid City, South Dakota, on June 27,2024. (Photo: Angel White Eyes, Photo Editor for NDN Collective).