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DNC Panel Passes Resolution Urging Joe Biden To Release Leonard Peltier

The Democratic National Committee just took a step toward including language in its 2024 party platform urging President Joe Biden to release activist Leonard Peltier from prison, a sign of growing momentum to remedy what many consider a decadeslong stain on the nation’s criminal justice system.

On Thursday, the DNC’s Resolutions Committee unanimously approved a measure calling for Biden to grant clemency to Peltier. The Indigenous rights activist has been in prison for 46 years following the 1975 slayings of two FBI agents in South Dakota. This is despite no evidence he committed a crime, a trial riddled with misconduct and a parole process so problematic that United Nations legal experts recently called on Biden to release him immediately.

The DNC resolution states that Peltier, now 77, is an ideal candidate for leniency “given the overwhelming support for clemency, the constitutional due process issues underlying Mr. Peltier’s prosecution, his status as an elderly inmate, and that he is an American Indian, who suffer from greater rates of health disparities and severe underlying health conditions.”

It concludes, “it is highly appropriate that consideration of clemency for Mr. Peltier be prioritized and expedited, so that Mr. Peltier can return to his family and live his final years among his people.”

Here’s a full copy of the text:

The resolution now awaits a full vote by DNC members at a general session Saturday. If it’s approved, it then heads to the White House for Biden’s review. (Awkward.)

State Rep. Ruth Anna Buffalo (D-N.D.), a member of the DNC Executive Committee and one of the people behind the resolution, said she feels nothing but gratitude to see it advance with unanimous support.

“We thank the Democratic Party for standing with justice,” she told HuffPost on Friday.

“My 19-year-old daughter continues to encourage me to push harder and to work harder for our elder Leonard Peltier’s release,” said Buffalo. “Our next generation is watching and sees this injustice.”

A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on whether Biden is aware of the DNC resolution or whether he is considering granting clemency for the activist.

Peltier is often described as America’s longest-serving political prisoner, and advocates for his release characterize his trial as problematic, citing racism against Indigenous people, his co-defendants’ acquittal on grounds of self-defense, and allegations that the FBI bore partial responsibility for the shootout that led to its agents’ deaths.

A former U.S. prosecutor who helped put Peltier in jail has since described his trial as flawed and last year wrote to Biden urging clemency. Members of Congress have similarly requested that he be set free, and four U.S. senators have separately called on the president to release Peltier in recent months: Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

The new resolution comes after leaders of the DNC’s Native American Caucus, including Buffalo, issued a statement earlier this year calling his imprisonment “one of the great miscarriages of justice in modern history.”

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