Home News Stories  

What's New

Graham Defense Update
- Latest Information
- Actions and Events

Position Statement

Who is John Graham?
blank space
- Personal Photo Album

blank space
- A History of Activism
blank space
- Freedom Returned

Statements of Support
- Officials and Chiefs
- Human Rights Groups
- Unions and Activists

Media Publications

How To Contribute

Letter Campaign

Media Files

Contact Us

Looking deeper into the matter of John Graham

A statement for publication by the John Graham Defense Committee
Whitehorse, YUKON

December 18, 2003
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - December 18, 2003 - John Graham, a native of the Yukon and father of eight who has been living quietly in Vancouver for several years, was charged in the U.S. on March 30, 2003, along with Arlo Looking Cloud, 49, with the first-degree murder of Anna Mae Aquash twenty-eight
years ago.

In response to this development, many family and friends have come together to form the John Graham Defense Committee.  Based in Whitehorse, Yukon, the
committee will assist in coordinating international support while providing the public with a broader perspective of the charge against John Graham.

There are many tragedies which resulted from the shootout on the Pine Ridge reservation and subsequent events of nearly 30 years ago.  These include the deaths of Lakota people, members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Canadian activist Anna
Mae Pictou-Aquash.

In an effort to gain convictions for the deaths of the FBI agents, a continuing abuse of the justice system by the FBI has ensued, involving the fabrication of evidence and the use of false testimony and fraudulent affidavits.  Perhaps the most infamous result of these tactics was the illegal extradition of Leonard Peltier from Canada to face charges for the deaths of the two agents.

Given this documented history, Amnesty International issued a statement this month expressing great concern over the charge and proposed extradition of John Graham, saying "Amnesty International has condemned the fact that the FBI knowingly used false evidence to obtain the extradition of AIM activist Leonard Peltier from Canada in December 1976."

Others involved with Peltier's extradition have expressed similar concerns. In an interview with The Province earlier this month, former police officer Bob Newbrook reflected on his arresting Peltier in Canada, saying, "I'm haunted by the fact that I now think we seized an innocent man, with no valid Canadian arrest warrant, based on false evidence from the U.S."

Additionally, Warren Allmand, a former justice minister and the judge who extradited Peltier said they would never have agreed to his extradition had they known some affidavits and evidence presented by the U.S. were false.

While John Graham was not present at the actual Pine Ridge shootout, he was in the area at the time working with AIM as a junior security guard and assisting with routine activities.  In the months following the shootout, numerous AIM activists and other aboriginal people were regularly rounded up and interrogated, causing many to fear for their safety.

Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash was John's friend and a fellow activist from Canada. A Mi'qmak aboriginal woman from Nova Scotia, Anna Mae was also experiencing continued harassment by the FBI who believed she knew the identity of the shooters responsible for the FBI deaths.

Several months after the shootout, after having expressed concern for her own safety to friends and family
including to John Anna Mae was found dead on the Pine Ridge reservation having suffered a fatal bullet wound to the head.

There are many questions that surround the death of Anna Mae, including the failure of FBI agents to identify her while examining her body - even though they had interrogated her just weeks before. They buried her in an anonymous grave and sent only her hands to FBI headquarters for identification.

Norman Zagrossi, an FBI supervisor based in Washington, DC assigned with the Pine Ridge area, ordered her hands chopped off.  In a report by the CBC's
Fifth Estate, Mr. Zagrossi said, "Our experts in Washington suggested and told us that the proper procedure was to cut off the hands, put them in jars with formaldehyde and send them to Washington, which we did. I never did before."

Also in question is the failure of the FBI-led autopsy to detect the bullet wound
a wound which was immediately detected in a later autopsy stating only that she had died of exposure.

Once Anna Mae's body was identified by her fingerprints, her family ordered a second autopsy with an independent pathologist.  The examination immediately revealed the bullet still lodged in her head and extensive blood stains down the back of her jacket.

Many still question these facts today, which are an indication of either gross negligence on the part of the FBI, or something much worse.

Over the past decade, members of the FBI have made four trips to the Yukon to visit John Graham, asking him to identify Anna Mae's murderer and offering him immunity from any related charges.  They also warned John that if he did not comply, they would in turn bring charges against him for the crime.  During their fourth and last visit to the Yukon, the agents informed John that it would be the last time they would come to see him.

Living up to their promise, and after questionable interrogations of John's co-accused Arlo Looking Cloud, the FBI charged John Graham with the murder of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash. Mr. Looking Cloud has been described as a chronic and homeless alcoholic who has behaved erratically in jail since being arrested.  Mr. Looking Cloud is to go to trial on February 3rd and is expected to testify against John.  However, many believe his reliability is in question and that he is highly vulnerable to the documented coercive tactics employed by the FBI in the past.

There is tremendous concern being expressed from groups the world over, who are familiar with the broader history of the FBI with respect to this matter and who have a great respect for the work John Graham has accomplished for North American aboriginal peoples.

Numerous supporters, human rights and First Nation organizations, and the Honourable Yukon Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary Larry Bagnell, are calling on the Canadian government and all involved with this process to provide great scrutiny to the evidence presented in the extradition hearing.

Menschenrechte (Human Rights) 3000, a human rights organization based in Germany, has issued a statement saying, "We are deeply concerned about the safety of Mr. John Graham and the legality of the procedures in Canada," referring directly to the illegal extradition of Leonard Peltier.

In their recently published statement, Amnesty International has urged Canadian authorities to ensure that there is rigorous scrutiny of any evidence brought against John Graham.

Jennifer Wade, the founder of the Vancouver branch of Amnesty International who was at the extradition hearing of Leonard Peltier, says Canada will make the same mistake if it extradites John Graham for the murder of his friend and colleague, Pictou-Aquash.

The John Graham Defense Committee is calling upon all those involved with this matter, and all those who believe in truth and justice, to oppose the proposed extradition of John Graham. We believe that given the history of FBI misconduct, John would not receive a fair trial in the U.S., and are asking the public to consider the broader history before presuming John's guilt.

We all grieve the tragic loss of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash and hope the truth about her death will someday be known. We are also absolutely convinced of John's innocence and believe this charge to be a continuation of the travesty of justice which has endured since the events of the 1970s.

Please visit the Yukon-based Web site of the John Graham Defense Committee at
www.grahamdefense.org for more information on this important international story about the well-respected member of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, John Graham.


Matthew Lien - President
John Graham Defense Committee