American Indian activist Leonard Peltier seeking parole hearing

Friday, September 19th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) _ Attorneys for imprisoned American Indian activist Leonard Peltier, who was convicted 25 years ago of killing two FBI agents, are asking a federal appeals court to approve a parole hearing he has sought since 1986.

Peltier's lawyer, Barry Bachrach, said a panel's earlier refusal to grant the hearing was based on information the government has never proved.

``It was based on the proposition that he was involved in an ambush and executed the agents,'' Bachrach said Thursday, the eve of arguments before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. ``That just doesn't hold water.''

Supporters around the world have long campaigned to free Peltier, 59, who is serving a life sentence for fatally shooting FBI agents Ronald Williams and Jack Coler during a standoff on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975.

Peltier was the subject of several documentary films and the best-selling novel ``In the Spirit of Crazy Horse'' by Peter Matthiessen.

Peltier's appeals have thus far failed. President Clinton denied Peltier clemency in 2000, a decision Peltier's supporters blamed on a protest by 500 FBI agents and their families outside the White House.

Opponents of Peltier's release, many of them in law enforcement agents and officials, point to the repeated rejections of his appeals and claim he has changed his story through the years.

Peltier is being held in the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., and will not be in Denver for Friday's arguments.

The appeal involves a long-ago decision by the U.S. Parole Commission to deny a hearing for Peltier. Bachrach said under rules in place when Peltier was convicted, he should have been eligible for parole in 1986; the commission has said he must wait until December 2008.

The commission's decision was upheld last year by a federal court in Kansas.