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Inhumane prison conditions in the United States

Freedom for Leonard Peltier!

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) once again demands the immediate release of Leonard Peltier, who has now been in prison for 48 years. In the fall, the seriously ill indigenous activist will turn 80. “Leonard Peltier was arrested under dubious conditions and convicted on the basis of extorted testimonies,” stated Nora Erdmann, STP expert on indigenous peoples, in Göttingen today. “The prison conditions in the high-security penitentiary USP-Coleman I have become more stringent since the pandemic and can almost be described as torture. Under these conditions, he will not survive much longer. It is high time to put an end to this blatant injustice and to pardon Leonard Peltier.”
According to Peltier’s lawyer Jenipher Jones and other supporters, the lockdown conditions were repeatedly extended. Isolation, confinement, visitation bans, restriction of movement, and lack of basic medical care have been burdening the prisoners for years now. There is a lack of fresh air, and the prisoners are only allowed to shower three times a week – for ten minutes. Peltier’s health has deteriorated significantly while in prison, and he is suffering from diabetes. Peltier was not granted any dental care for ten years. He has lost all his teeth and did not receive any dental prosthetics.
“We hope – and expect – that the many appeals of a broad coalition will finally be heard this year. It is to be hoped that Peltier will be able to spend the remaining years of his life in dignity and freedom with his family in his home reserve,” Erdmann emphasized. “While previous appeals to release the innocent activist or at least place him in a less strict confinement have failed, we very much hope that 2024 will be the year of his release. Leonard Peltier will not be forgotten!”
Following a shooting in the Pine Ridge Reservation in the US state of South Dakota on June 26, 1975, he was sentenced to two life imprisonments for the alleged murder of two FBI agents. Peltier was a well-known activist of the American Indian Movement, which campaigns for indigenous rights. Later, it was revealed that the FBI had coerced witness testimonies. There was, and still is, no evidence of his guilt.

Even while in prison, Peltier advocated for indigenous rights – and he became an icon of the Native American civil rights movement. Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and Simon Wiesenthal, among others, had advocated for his release over the years. Despite the numerous high-profile interventions, he was not pardoned by the Democratic presidents Clinton and Obama, nor by President Trump. Now, all hopes are on Joe Biden.
On the occasion of the anniversary of his arrest, there will be numerous vigils around the world – among others by the STP’s regional group in Düsseldorf: today, February 6, from 3:30 to 4:30 pm, Burgplatz Düsseldorf.