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Looking deeper into the matter of
for publication by the John Graham Defense
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
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
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
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
Also in question is the failure of the FBI-led autopsy to detect the bullet
a wound which
was immediately detected in a later autopsy
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
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
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
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
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
Please visit the Yukon-based Web site of the John Graham Defense Committee
for more information on this important international story about the
well-respected member of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, John
ALL MY RELATIONS,
Matthew Lien - President
John Graham Defense Committee