Advocates press Obama to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - As the clock ticks down toward the end of the Obama administration, advocates are stepping up efforts to secure clemency for Leonard Peltier.

Leonard Peltier.

Peltier, an American Indian Movement activist, was convicted 41 years ago in connection with the deaths of two FBI agents in a shootout in Oglala on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

A young Native man was also killed in the incident.

Peltier is now 71 years old and his attorneys say he is in failing health.

They point to a letter to the president from a former federal prosecutor supporting clemency as new reason to free him.

An FBI spokesman says that the agency's position remains firm that the case has been endlessly studied and and that there is no reason to release Peltier.

One KOTA Territory woman who has worked for decades on Peltier's behalf says clemency would send a strong message in Indian Country.

“We have this hostage, this political prisoner that's been in there for 41 years -- longer than any other political prisoner,” said Jean Roach of Rapid City who is a board member of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee. “You know, he needs to be released and until that happens there's not going be a time for healing. It's just like a stab in our back and that knife is still there.”

A request for comment from the White House was not returned in time for broadcast.