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Man wanted in 1975 U.S. murder could get released on bail soon
 
The Canadian Press
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
By Greg Joyce

VANCOUVER (CP) - A man wanted in the 1975 murder of a Canadian member of the American Indian Movement remained in custody Tuesday but could be released on bail if he meets several conditions, a judge said.

John Graham, a member of the Southern Tuchone First Nation in the Yukon, is wanted in South Dakota for first-degree murder in the death of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, a Mi'kmaq born in Pictou Landing, N.S. Graham faces the murder charge along with American native Arlo Looking Cloud.

Pictou-Aquash's frozen body was found in February 1976. She had been shot in the head.

She was among the Indian militants who occupied the village of Wounded Knee for 71 days in 1973.

At the bail hearing, the associate chief justice of the B.C. Supreme Court outlined a series of conditions Graham would have to meet before he would likely be granted bail pending his extradition hearing.

He could be released if at least five of his friends or supporters, who must be permanent residents of British Columbia, put up a total of $25,000.

Justice Patrick Dohm also said Graham would be under house arrest until the extradition hearing is completed and may be subject to the electronic monitoring program.

The judge told Graham's lawyer, Terry La Liberte, he would be prepared to reconvene court any time - even on Christmas Day - if the conditions can be met.

Graham, who appeared in court wearing prison garb, smiled at about 10 friends and supporters who sat in the public gallery.

He was arrested in early December by city police acting on a warrant.

Crown lawyer Deborah Strachan told the court Graham should be kept in custody pending the extradition hearing, saying he is a flight risk.

She said he also changed his address in Vancouver in April after the media informed him of the arrest of Looking Cloud the previous month in the United States.

The U.S. authorities allege Graham and Looking Cloud abducted Pictou-Aquash, took her to a wooded area and shot her in the head, said Strachan.

"Mr. Graham was the triggerman," Strachan told the court.

The main reason Graham should be kept in custody, said Strachan, was that he left his place of residence the day after some reporters came to interview him about his role in the Pictou-Aquash death.

"He clearly knew he was wanted in South Dakota," said Strachan.

But La Liberte told the court that Graham was not a flight risk and has been aware of allegations against him for many years.

"He hasn't been underground," he said. "He has been in Vancouver. He has been in the public eye."

Graham was unaware of a provincial warrant for his arrest, said La Liberte.

Outside court, Strachan acknowledged the judge was leaning towards releasing Graham on bail.

"He's inclined to release him but on very strict conditions," she said. "If those conditions can be fully met that may be sufficient to ensure that he does turn up for court when required."

The case has attracted widespread interest for more than two decades after a standoff between members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and government-backed factions led to the deaths of two FBI agents, among others.

Leonard Peltier, another well-known AIM activist, was convicted of the murder of the two agents.

U.S. prosecutors still plan to try Looking Cloud and his trial is set for February in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Looking Cloud is a Lakota Indian who grew up on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.

Graham has never denied knowing Pictou-Aquash but has denied any involvement in her death.

According to the FBI, agents Ron Williams and Jack Coler were killed in June 1975 as they searched on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation for robbery suspects. Both were shot in the head at point-blank range after they were injured in a shootout. Their bodies were left on a dirt road.

There has been speculation over the years that Pictou-Aquash was killed by AIM members because she knew some of them were government spies. Others say she was killed because she herself was an informant while another theory is that she knew who committed the murders.

Copyright 2003 The Canadian Press