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Peltier attorneys argue Freedom of Information case in Minneapolis

In an ongoing legal battle with the Minneapolis Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), lawyers for political prisoner Leonard Peltier will argue in court on Friday, April 15, 2005 , for the release of some 90,000 pages of information contained in an investigation file opened by the Bureau nearly 30 years ago.
USP-Leavenworth

MEDIA ADVISORY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
11 April 2005

Contact: Barry Bachrach, Esquire; Bowditch & Dewey, 311 Main Street , Worcester , MA 01615 ; bbachrach AT bowditch.com

Peltier attorneys argue Freedom of Information case in Minneapolis

In an ongoing legal battle with the Minneapolis Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), lawyers for political prisoner Leonard Peltier will argue in court on Friday, April 15, 2005 , for the release of some 90,000 pages of information contained in an investigation file opened by the Bureau nearly 30 years ago.

In 2002, the Peltier attorneys filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with FBI headquarters & the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington , DC , as well as 35 FBI Field Offices throughout the country. They learned that the government has withheld over 140,000 documents regarding the Peltier case.

In 2003, in connection with attempts by the attorneys to obtain documents still being withheld by the Minneapolis FBI Field Office, Magistrate Judge Susan Richard Nelson of the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis ordered that documents be released beginning no later than December 2004. All documents are to be released by December 2005.

On December 30, 2004 , the FBI produced 5,112 pages of material. However, the release of documents consisted of Mr. Peltier's 1977 trial transcript, as well as the trial transcript of Peltier's co-defendants who were acquitted on grounds of self defense. As this was information already in the lawyers' possession, the Peltier attorneys argued a lack of "good faith" on the part of the FBI & requested that the magistrate judge reconsider her prior order. Their request was denied.

On March 21, 2005 , the U.S. District Court agreed to hear oral argument regarding an appeal of the magistrate's decision. Review of the case docket revealed that during Peltier's trial in 1977, daily transcripts were provided to both the prosecution & the defense, said U.S. District Judge Donovan W. Frank. Further, a complete 24-volume transcript was filed on June 13, 1977 , not one page of which was sealed.

Friday's hearing follows a federal judge's ruling in New York last week that allowed the government to withhold documents Peltier supporters believe could help lead to his release. Attorney Michael Kuzma & lead counsel Barry Bachrach are particularly interested in a 1975 message from the FBI's Buffalo office to the agency's headquarters indicating there may have been a government informant near Peltier's defense team. Kuzma accused the FBI of misusing FOIA exemptions to avoid releasing that & other documents that could reveal FBI misconduct. The Peltier attorneys will appeal the New York decision.

In the meantime, Peltier attorneys & the FBI have been discussing a deal whereby the FBI would make all such records public by releasing them to the National Archives. In exchange, Peltier's defense team would agree not to file additional lawsuits seeking their release.

A participant in the American Indian Movement, Peltier went to assist the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota where, on June 26, 1975 , a tragic shoot out occurred. He was wrongfully convicted in the deaths of two FBI agents &, despite the courts' acknowledgment of FBI & prosecutorial misconduct in the case, has been imprisoned since 1976, currently at the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas. The 60-year-old activist for Indigenous Rights has been designated a political prisoner by Amnesty International & was nominated for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. His case was documented by renowned author Peter Matthiessen (In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, Viking Press, 1983) & in several films, including Incident at Oglala, produced by actor Robert Redford. Peltier's supporters plan to return to Pine Ridge to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the tragic shoot out on June 26.

At Friday's hearing, Kuzma said, the Peltier legal team will argue vigorously that all withheld materials should have been turned over at the Peltier trial 28 years ago.

The hearing will be held at 2:00 p.m. at St. Paul Federal Court House, 316 N. Roberts, St. Paul , Minnesota .

homepage: homepage: http://www.peltiersupport.org/