Above Photo:Leonard Peltier | Photo: International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
Leonard Peltier, U.S. political prisoner and Native American leader, is in stable condition after undergoing triple bypass surgery, his defense committee announced Saturday morning.
In a letter published by the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, Peltier wrote that he had been “taken to an outside hospital in Leesburg (Florida) for what I was told was a routine heart stress test,” due to shortness of breath.
However, medics found “clogged arteries, 3 of them!” An immediate operation was scheduled and Peltier underwent triple bypass surgery.
“My chest was opened and they took arteries from my legs and placed them in the blocked arteries. I had to be given a liter of blood,” he said, adding that now he’s “back in prison” and getting around in a “wheelchair.”
Still suffering from a slight shortness of breath, Peltier nevertheless said he was looking forward to his grandson’s visit him next week.
A member of the Anishinabe, Dakota and Lakota Nations, Peltier is a member of the American Indian Movement who was convicted of killing two FBI agents during a shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1975. He has always maintained his innocence.
Evidence used in his conviction has long been scrutinized and found to be falsely corroborated.
An international campaign led by Indigenous activists has brought Nobel Peace Prize winners Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and Rigoberta Menchu, as well as Pope Francis, Amnesty International and tens of thousands of supporters together to call for clemency for Peltier.
Even U.S. attorney James Reynolds, who was involved in the prosecution of the case in 1977, wrote to former President Barack Obama saying granting clemency to Peltier would be “in the best interests of justice.”
“I think it’s fair to say that if he doesn’t get commuted by President Obama, he’ll die in jail. He’s a very sick man,” Peltier’s attorney Martin Garbus told Democracy Now! in January.
That same month, the U.S. Office of the Pardon Attorney announced that Obama denied clemency to the aging Peltier, who has developed several health problems in his 40 years in prison, one of the longest serving political prisoners in the United States.
“We are deeply saddened by the news that President Obama will not let Leonard go home,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA.