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Soviet Eye Doctors Arrive To Examine Imprisoned Indian

June 24, 1987

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) _ Two ophthalmologists from the Soviet Union went to the federal prison here today to examine imprisoned American Indian Leonard Peltier, described by the Soviets as a victim of U.S. political repression.

Jeff Duncan, executive assistant to Warden Jerry O’Brien, said the physicians were to examine Peltier at the prison hospital after a brief meeting with the warden. He said they also would be offered a tour of the prison.

Trisha Stanton of the Leonard Peltier Media Bureau in Kansas City said the two doctors, Eduard Avetisov and Lev Katsnelson, arrived Tuesday night.

They also planned to tour the Eye Foundation and Eye Center of the University of Missouri at Kansas City today and meet privately with doctors there, Ms. Stanton said. Peltier, 42, serving two consecutive life terms for the shooting deaths of two FBI agents on a South Dakota Indian reservation in 1975, suffers from what the State Department describes as an incurable eye disease that causes blurred vision.

Arrangements for the visit by the ophthalmologists was made by the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors human rights provisions of the 1975 agreement governing relations among the United States, Canada and Europe.

Peltier was examined Monday by Dr. Marc Whitacre, a retina specialist at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Officials at the hospital declined to discuss Peltier’s condition, but Ms. Stanton said Peltier was told his condition is not treatable.

Phyllis Oakley, State Department spokeswoman, said Soviet officials expressed interest in examining Peltier even though they were told the disease was incurable.

″Mr. Peltier did not request the visit but has stated he has no objections. With humanitarian considerations foremost in mind, the U.S. government has consented to the Soviet request and will facilitate the visit,″ Ms. Oakley said.

Peltier has maintained he is innocent of the reservation shootings, and has long had Kremlin backing. Three years ago, the State Department allowed two Soviet news agencies to interview Peltier, once a leader of the American Indian Movement.

Soviet officials brought up the Peltier case last April when a U.S. congressional delegation visited Moscow. When delegation members asked that some Soviet citizens be allowed to go to the West for medical treatment, Soviet officials responded by asking that Peltier be given permission to go to Moscow for treatment.

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