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Wife of Jailed American Indian Gets Widespread Publicity during Visit

January 15, 1986

MOSCOW (AP) _ Soviet officials and the state-run media have been giving widespread publicity to the visit of Stephanie Peltier, whose jailed American Indian husband is portrayed here as an example of human rights abuses in the United States.

Mrs. Peltier has been in the Soviet Union since Jan. 7, discussing her husband’s case at the invitation of the Soviet Peace Committee.

″I came here as the wife of Leonard Peltier to reach out and to touch people’s minds and their hearts, so that they will look at the issues involved in Leonard’s case and that they will join us in our struggle to free him,″ Mrs. Peltier said Wednesday at a Moscow news conference.

While Washington criticizes Moscow for such acts as confining Nobel laureate and physicist Andrei Sakharov to the closed city of Gorky, the Soviets champion Peltier as a freedom fighter and a symbol of U.S. oppression of minorities.

Peltier has served almost 10 years of two life sentences in the slayings of two FBI agents during a 1975 shootout on the Pine Ridge, S.D., Indian reservation.

His attorneys and supporters say he was convicted unjustly, that he was improperly extradited from Canada in 1976 and that the FBI coerced key witnesses into making false accusations against him.

Last week, the youth newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda printed clip-out coupons addressed to the White House, demanding that Peltier be freed.

Peltier’s supporters say that over the years, 14 million Soviet signatures have been gathered and sent to the United States.

Mrs. Peltier is accompanied by John Privitera, Peltier’s lawyer, and Billy Wahpepah of the International Indian Treaty Council.

Privitera declined to comment when asked about such cases as that of Sakharov’s.

″I am not going to speak to anything in particular as to Dr. Sakharov because I simply don’t know enough about his case, and we didn’t come here to talk about that,″ Privitera said. ″We came here to talk about Leonard Peltier.″

In an earlier statement he said he believes it is legally acceptable to engage in diplomatic intervention in other countries in the name of human rights.

Privitera said he discussed human rights in general with peace committee officials and the need to investigate abuses in all countries, but he said specific cases in the Soviet Union did not come up.

Moscow has repeatedly denounced Western protests about human rights cases in the Soviet Union, saying they are strictly internal matters.

Mrs. Peltier said her husband is innocent and thanked the Soviet people for taking up his cause in the name of human rights.

Mrs. Peltier said that she plans to visit other countries and that on Feb. 6 Peltier’s supporters plan to start an international campaign to free her husband.

Wahpepah said, in answer to a question at the news conference, that the Soviets had not made any financial contributions for their visit.

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