Will President Clinton finish his presidency by starting the 21st Century redressing a 25-year-old American injustice? Leonard Peltier's request for presidential clemency is being watched from around the world. Many prominent people, including Mother Teresa, Princess Diana, the Dalai Lama, former U.S. Attorney Ramsey Clark, Gerry Adams, author Peter Matthiessen, actor Robert Redford, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson, have been joined by former FBI agent Don Edwards, former FBI agent Paul Berg, and Judge Gerald Heavey, who once denied Mr. Peltier's appeal, in asking for Mr. Peltier's release.
There is more than a reasonable doubt of his innocence in the killing of FBI agents Ron Williams and Jack Coler. After the people arrested and tried for the same killings as Mr. Peltier's were acquitted by a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, jury, the FBI determined that Mr. Peltier was the lone culprit, so they extradited him from Canada, which has strained our relationship with the Canadian government.
The FBI has used taxpayer money to fight in court against Peter Matthiessen's book, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, being released as a movie. Why the censorship? If, as the FBI states, there is valid evidence, why has it worked so diligently to deny a re-trial, and why has there been so little American press coverage when the rest of the world is so familiar with this injustice? It is injustice as much for Mr. Coler and Mr. Williams as it is for Mr. Peltier to keep this case in such questionable circumstances.
Mr. Peltier deserves clemency, not just a pardon, in his own right but also so the world may not point to this case whenever we presume to preach to others about human rights and native people's justice. Fate and natural law are real, not just petty excuses to keep one man in jail to cover individuals' misconduct in an otherwise good agency such as the FBI. It has been said that "to remain silent is to lie." it is hoped President Clinton will not remain silent on this matter.