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US Indigenous Activist Imprisoned for 49 Years to Get Parole Hearing

Leonard Peltier, an indigenous activist who spent most of his life behind bars since 1975, convicted for the killings of two FBI agents in South Dakota, has a parole hearing on Monday at a federal prison in Florida. 

Peltier, now 79, with his health declining, might have to wait a decade or more if this parole request is denied, according to his attorney Kevin Sharp, a former federal judge. Sharp and other supporters have argued for a long time that Peltier was wrongly convicted while stressing that this effort might be his last chance at freedom.

“This whole entire hearing is a battle for his life,” said Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of the NDN Collective, an Indigenous-led advocacy group. “It’s time for him to come home.”

The FBI and its current and former agents have debunked the claims of innocence. The fight for Peltier’s freedom, which also involves the Indigenous rights movements, is still prevailing even almost a century later with “Free Peltier” T-shirts and caps still available online. 

“It may be kind of cultish to take his side as some kind of a hero. But he’s certainly not that; he’s a cold blooded murderer,” said Mike Clark, president of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, in a letter arguing that Peltier should remain incarcerated.

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