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Former lawman raises doubts about arrest in 1975 murder
Amnesty International backs Canadian facing extradition to U.S.

 
The Province
Friday, December 05, 2003
By Suzanne Fournier

Amnesty International members in Vancouver fear that a native charged with a murder 27 years ago will be railroaded to the U.S. on "flimsy and trumped-up evidence."

They say John Graham, 48, of the Southern Tuchone band in the Yukon, who was arrested in Vancouver on Monday, approached them years ago fearing for his safety.

"My greatest fear is that the U.S. will use the same kind of flimsy and trumped-up evidence that they used against Leonard Peltier to justify the extradition of John Graham, a Canadian citizen, to the U.S.," said Amnesty International member Bob Newbrook, a retired police officer who arrested Peltier in Alberta in 1976.

"Canada should have learned from the Peltier case that it cannot trust U.S. evidence presented against American Indian activists."

Graham, a father of eight who has been living quietly in Vancouver for years, was charged in the U.S. on March 30, along with Arlo Looking Cloud, 49, with the first-degree murder on Dec. 12, 1975, of Anna Mae Aquash. She was a Mik'maq from Nova Scotia who became a leader in the American Indian Movement.

Aquash's frozen body, with a gunshot wound to the head, was found on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.

Graham has been telling Amnesty International members in Vancouver for years he had nothing to do with the murder of Aquash, whom he liked and respected.

"I met with John Graham in 2000 and spent several hours with him, questioning him closely about Anna Mae Aquash, and he was forthright, sincere and adamant that he never would have hurt Aquash but that he had a good idea who had," says Jennifer Wade, a retired English professor and founding member of Amnesty International.

"John has led a very quiet life and for him to be charged now, 27 years later, is very peculiar."

Graham's supporters say they believe U.S. officials have moved against Graham now because the FBI's case against Looking Cloud, a chronic and homeless alcoholic who is to go to trial Feb. 3, is in trouble. Looking Cloud was supposed to testify against Graham but he has behaved erratically in jail since being arrested.

Newbrook, now a financial planner, said he has thoroughly investigated the Peltier and Aquash case and has come to regret his role. "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.," he said.

Peltier, an AIM activist who is serving two life sentences for the 1975 murders of two FBI agents in South Dakota, fled to Canada. He was extradited in 1976 on the basis of affidavits from a witness named Myrtle Poor Bear, a mentally challenged woman who claimed she was Peltier's girlfriend and had seen him shoot the two agents.

Poor Bear later recanted her evidence after it was proven she had never met Peltier nor witnessed the shootings.

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

Justice Department spokesman Pascale Boulay said the U.S. has 60 days to present evidence to justify Graham's extradition.

"It's up to a Canadian judge to decide whether a person should be extradited," said Boulay.

Aquash's daughters, Deborah Pictou Maloney, now an RCMP officer in Nova Scotia, and Denise Maloney of Toronto have applauded the arrests after demanding an end to "a conspiracy of silence" about their mother's murder.

Copyright  2003 The Province