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Peltier blasts Clinton for not pardoning him

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Imprisoned Native American activist and convicted murderer Leonard Peltier blasted former President Clinton on Monday for refusing to include him among several other controversial figures pardoned on his final day in office.

Leonard Peltier
Peltier is serving two consecutive life sentences for the murders of two FBI agents in 1975  

Peltier was convicted in the slaying deaths of two FBI agents in a 1975 gunbattle on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Peltier and his supporters say he was wrongly convicted.

"What Bill Clinton did to us was cruel," wrote Peltier in a two-page letter released by his legal defense committee. "The White House gave my attorneys indications that there was a good chance for my clemency to be granted. I had to prepare myself for being released because there was no sign that my petition would be denied."

Rumors that Clinton was considering a Christmas pardon for Peltier swept through the FBI, angering agents from coast to coast and prompting an unprecedented march of thousands of current and former FBI agents in Washington in December to demand that Peltier's clemency request be rejected.

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Peltier, 56, is housed in the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas. He has been in federal custody since February 1976. In his letter, he accused Clinton of approving pardons because of political favors.

Clinton's most controversial pardon was granted to fugitive billionaire Marc Rich, who has been living in Switzerland since a 1983 indictment on charges of wire fraud, racketeering, tax evasion and trading with Iran in violation of a U.S. embargo. Rich's ex-wife, Denise Rich, was a major donor to the campaigns of both the president and his wife, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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Among Americans pardoned today by outgoing President Clinton were, clockwise from left: Henry Cisneros, Patricia Hearst, Susan McDougal, Roger Clinton  

"We can see who was granted clemency and why," Peltier said. "The big donors to the President's campaign were able to buy justice, something we just couldn't afford."

"Meanwhile many political prisoners continue to languish unjustly, proof that this nation's talk about reconciliation is nothing but empty rhetoric."

Sources familiar with the process told CNN a Peltier pardon never appeared to be a likely action because of intense opposition from law enforcement agencies and prosecutors at all levels of government.

But human rights activists were equally vocal in their support of Peltier, who they say was wrongly convicted. His supporters argue that evidence that would have helped Peltier's case was kept from his defense attorneys.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela leads a list of prominent figures in Africa and Europe who support Peltier's campaign for clemency.

FBI documents released in the early 1980s disclosed that ballistics tests that aided Peltier's defense had been concealed from his attorneys. About 6,000 pages of FBI documents in the Peltier case remain under seal, and his defense committee said it would pressure the U.S. government to declassify that information.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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