Leonard Peltier Demands Urgent Medical Care

Prison Denies Treatment at Mayo Clinic

Revolutionary Worker #985, December 6, 1998

Federal prison authorities are continuing to deny Native American political prisoner Leonard Peltier treatment for a potentially life-threatening health problem. Since 1996, Leonard has had something seriously wrong with his jaw. He is unable to open and close his mouth. He has a half-inch gap between his teeth through which he eats. He cannot chew his food and is in excruciating pain. Leonard recently told a supporter that the pain is unbearable.

One of Leonard Peltier's attorneys, Ramsey Clark, reports that because Leonard can't open his mouth he can't receive treatment for two abscessed teeth. If left untreated, the infection from these teeth could spread through his bloodstream and become life-threatening. Prison medical authorities at the Springfield Federal Medical Center claimed Leonard had cancer and gave him jaw surgery twice and high doses of radiation.

A press release issued by the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee describes the "treatment" Leonard received from the prison medical center in 1996: "During the surgery, Leonard almost died from blood loss. He went into a coma for 14 hours. After the surgery, while he was still weak, he was put in the `hole' which was infested with cockroaches and ants. He was forced to stay in the 5'x7' cell for 23 hours a day and was not given adequate writing materials or use of a telephone. During this time doctors convinced him that he needed radiation treatment on his jaw or he would die. He was not diagnosed with cancer. He was given radiation treatment for five days straight, making his condition even weaker. The operation was largely unsuccessful as his jaw is now in worse condition than it ever was before. For obvious reasons, Leonard refuses any further `treatment' from Springfield."

According to Leonard's supporters, when the records were reviewed by another doctor it was found that the radiation treatments were not the type usually given for cancer. Prison authorities won't allow an outside doctor to treat Leonard and he refuses to sign a release to get treated again because the prison authorities could then decide who treats him. A doctor at the famous Mayo Clinic has petitioned the Bureau of Prisoners on Leonard's behalf, but so far has been denied permission to treat Leonard.

Leonard's health has continued to deteriorate. His defense committee has put out a call for people to demand Leonard be treated by the Mayo Clinic. After letters and messages of protest were sent to prison authorities last summer, Leonard was told "unofficially" by a prison official that he would be transferred for treatment. But months went by and no action was taken. So Leonard Peltier filed a lawsuit against the prison for "cruel and unusual punishment." On October 14 the prison dismissed the lawsuit--on the outrageous grounds that "medical neglect or malpractice does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment." Leonard's defense committee has called for lawyers to step forward to take up this aspect of his case before the statute of limitations on the lawsuit runs out.

In the early 1970s, Leonard Peltier joined the American Indian Movement (AIM)--an organization which brought revolutionary, anti-system politics to the masses and linked up with the youth and older, more traditional people on the reservations. In 1973, people on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian reservations in South Dakota rose up against government repression and attacks on the people. Hundreds took over the buildings at Wounded Knee. They were blockaded by GOONs, U.S. Marshals, FBI SWAT teams, troops, BIA officials, armored vehicles, and sharpshooters. Firefights went on for over 70 days and brought AIM's struggle worldwide attention and support.

After a negotiated "settlement," FBI agents flooded the area."

These agents presided over a death-squad campaign: In the three years after the occupation of Wounded Knee, more than 60 AIM supporters died violently on or near the Pine Ridge reservation. On July 26, 1975, a firefight occurred in an AIM encampment. Two FBI agents were killed. Three men were charged with the murder. Two were acquitted by an all white jury. A 1976 FBI memo then called for directing "full prosecutive weight of the federal government--against Leonard Peltier." Witnesses were intimidated and evidence was fabricated. Leonard was found guilty and sentenced to two life terms. All of Leonard's appeals have been denied. Four years ago, he petitioned for clemency (release with time served) from President Clinton.

Leonard has maintained his innocence for 23 years. He has also refused to back away from his political beliefs and instead has done what he can to speak out about the injustices against Native people and others from whatever prisons he's been held in.

The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee is calling for civil disobedience and protest around the world on December 19 to demand that Leonard be granted clemency and freed. They have also issued a new poster titled "The Indian Wars Are Not Over" with a picture of Leonard and a list of 55 people who were murdered by the authorities on Pine Ridge. Across the bottom is the slogan "Free Leonard Peltier and All Political Prisoners!" To order posters or get more information about Leonard's case, contact the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, P.O. Box 583, Lawrence, Kansas, 66044. Phone: 785-842-5774; Fax: 785-842-5796; E-mail: lpdc@idir.net. (For more information about Leonard's case also see RW #968.)

The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee has asked that people contact the following officials to demand he be granted medical treatment and his phone privileges be reinstated: Ms. Kathleen Hawk, Director, Bureau of Prisons, 320 First Street, Washington, DC 20534, FAX: 202-514-6878; Warden Booker, Leavenworth Federal Prison, PO Box 1000, Leavenworth, KS 66048, 913-682-8700. To demand clemency, contact US Pardon Attorney Roger C. Adams, 500 First Street N.W. Suite 400, Ref: Leonard Peltier #89637-132, Washington D.C. 20530, 202- 616-6070; President Bill Clinton, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington DC 20500, 202-456-1111.

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