Leonard Peltier, Indigenous activist in prison for 47 years over FBI killings, has parole hearing | Native Americans

Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist who has served nearly 50 years in prison for the killing of two FBI agents, was due to have his first parole hearing since 2009 on Monday, his lawyer said.

Peltier, 79, has maintained that he did not kill the FBI special agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams in 1975 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Advocates, including figures such as the late Nelson Mandela and a former prosecutor and judge involved in his case, have long said he should be freed because of what they call legal irregularities in his trial.

But in letter send to the top federal parole officer, Christopher Wray, the FBI director, called Peltier a “remorseless killer” who should never be freed.

“Throughout the years, Peltier has never accepted responsibility or shown remorse,” Wray wrote to Patricia Cushwa, acting chair of the US Parole Commission, on 7 June. “He is wholly unfit for parole.”

Peltier was to meet with a US Parole Commission federal agent inside the Coleman federal complex in Florida, according to Peltier’s attorney, the former federal judge Kevin Sharp.

The US Parole Commission did not return requests for comment.

Peltier, who was a member of the American Indian Movement in the 1970s, has said he was among a group of Native American men who fired on the two FBI agents who arrived on the Pine Ridge reservation in June 1976, in search of a fugitive. Peltier has said that while he fired, he was not the person who killed the agents.

Two other Native American men who fired at the agents were tried in 1976 and found not guilty by reason of self-defense. Peltier fled to Canada before the trial. He was eventually extradited back to the US and tried separately in 1977, when he was found guilty.

Amnesty International has long championed Peltier’s case. Like others, they say that government prosecutors withheld critical evidence that would have been favorable to Peltier at trial and fabricated affidavits that painted him as guilty.

Since his conviction, a former prosecutor in his trial, a federal judge involved in an appeal, Pope Francis, Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Coretta Scott King and multiple US senators, among others, have called for Peltier’s release.

Paul O’Brien, executive director of Amnesty International, wrote in letter to the US Parole Commission that granting parole on humanitarian grounds “is not only timely but a necessary measure in the interests of both justice and mercy”.

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