ROCHESTER, Minn. ? Lakota/Ojibwe activist Leonard Peltier was unexpectedly transferred from Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in late March.
Peltier underwent a five hour surgery performed by Dr. E.E. Keller at Mayo clinic on March 21. Dr. Keller said Peltier's jaw was completely immobile, and has been returned to normal. Peltier is happy and recovering comfortably, Keller says.
Peltier's supporters weren't notified of the transfer. Members of his defense team say they learned he was missing from a prison visitor who was told Peltier was not in the institution. Supporters were concerned that Peltier was being transferred to a medical facility at Springfield, Mo. ? the site of two earlier surgeries on his ailing jaw.
He was forced to recover in solitary confinement and had vowed never to return to Springfield, even if that meant never receiving needed treatment.
After an action alert went out from the Peltier Defense Committee headquarters, supporters flooded the phone banks of the Bureau of Prisons, Congress and the White House. Testimony to the effectiveness of Peltier's support network, the BOP released Peltier's whereabouts within 24 hours, pleaded for an end to the phone campaign and promised to "work closely with the defense committee."
After two surgeries at Springfield only worsened Peltier's condition, Keller wrote to the warden at Leavenworth in 1997 offering to treat Peltier. But prison officials insisted his third surgery would be at Springfield. Since then, members of Congress, United Nations Officials, human rights organizations, and hundreds of supporters have written to prison officials to urge the transfer to Mayo.
Peltier is considered by Amnesty International to be a political prisoner who should be immediately and unconditionally released. He was convicted in 1977 for the murders of two FBI agents. Federal prosecutors have admitted in open court that they don't know who shot the agents or what role, if any, Peltier might have had in the killings. Peltier will be reviewed for parole on June 12, 2000.