Phil Fontaine, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, visited with Native political prisoner Leonard Peltier in a show of solidarity and “grass-roots brotherhood.”
Along with Fontaine were top officials of the National Congress of American Indians.
“He (Peltier) knows the support is there but when he actually sees it like this it raises his spirits and gives him a lot of hope,” said Gina Chiala of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee which helped coordinate the meeting.
Last summer in a historic conference in Vancouver the AFN and the NCAI passed a joint resolution in support of Peltier’s release. This fall they met with U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno in an effort to get President Bill Clinton to grant Peltier executive clemency.
Peltier, in prison for almost 24 years, was convicted in the first-degree murder of two FBI agents and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. Supporters have claimed Peltier is innocent since day one.
Amnesty International considers Peltier a political prisoner who should be “immediately and unconditionally released.”
Canada became involved in the case after Peltier fled to Alberta via the “underground railroad” after the murders. He was extradited to the United States based on affidavits supplied by the FBI. After the Canadian court decided to send him back, the woman who wrote the affidavits claiming she saw Peltier shoot the agents recanted saying she had been coerced by the FBI. None of her evidence was ultimately used in Peltier’s trial.
Fontaine and a lawyer hired by the AFN met with the 55-year-old Peltier for two and a half hours discussing strategies for his release, the history of the case and his lack of health care.
Also discussed was the possibility of securing the release of sealed case documents held by the U.S and Canadian governments.
“Mr. Peltier has been incarcerated for an incredible amount of time when you consider the facts of the case. There is no justification for keeping Leonard imprisoned any longer,” Fontaine said in a report from Indian Country Today.
“He must be freed if we are to believe that justice in America is fair for all.”