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Accused killer stays free to await ruling

The Province
Thursday, January 29, 2004
By Suzanne Fournier

 

Former American Indian Movement activist John Graham walked away from court yesterday still a free man.

Graham, a 48-year-old father of eight who has lived in Vancouver since 1999, smiled in relief and hugged his supporters as he left the B.C. Court of Appeal following a bid by federal Crown prosecutor Deborah Strachan to revoke the bail he was granted Jan. 16.

B.C. Court of Appeal Justice Risa Levine reserved her decision.

Strachan argued Graham could "choose to go underground again" and disappear.

Graham said outside court he has refused to hide and that U.S. agents have interviewed him many times over the last decade.

"The only political movement I've been involved in for 20 years is the lives of my children and my loved ones," said Graham. "I'm not going anywhere I need to clear up these rumours that have been hanging over me for years."

Graham, a Yukon native of the Champagne and Aishihk band, is accused of the 28-year-old murder of Nova Scotia Mik'maq Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, who was shot in the back of the head in December 1975 in what Strachan called a "cold-blooded execution-style" killing on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.

The U.S. is seeking Graham's extradition to face a murder charge in South Dakota, where co-accused Arlo Looking Cloud has fingered Graham as the triggerman.

Graham's accusers say he was ordered by AIM leaders to execute Aquash as a suspected informant.

Graham says he has disavowed AIM's goals and its male leaders, who he said became "macho Hollywood Indians."

Graham was arrested in Vancouver Dec. 2 and released on stringent bail conditions requiring a $10,000 surety from each of five people and house arrest at an east-side residence.

Graham's lawyer, Terry LaLiberte, told Levine there is "not one tittle of forensic evidence" to link Graham to the killing of Aquash. He said the U.S. case relies largely on "hearsay" evidence "that we can prove is incorrect."

Tuma T. W. Young, a Mik'maq lawyer and University of B.C. doctoral student representing Aquash's two adult daughters, Denise Pictou Maloney of Toronto and Debbie Pictou Maloney, a Nova Scotia RCMP officer, said that "naturally the sisters would prefer certainty that [Graham] will show up in court so they can get a fair hearing."

"To the sisters, this is about solving their mother's brutal murder after all these years it's not about AIM leaders, though they should be held responsible if they ordered her death, or about blaming the FBI. An agency doesn't shoot a defenceless woman, a person does, and we want him brought to justice."
sfournier@png.canwest.com

The Vancouver Province 2004