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    The John Graham Saga
    Assailant of an Activist, or Victim of an FBI Witch Hunt?

    Dan Keeton

    One of the most explosive historical flashpoints in the frequently violent relationship between the U.S. government and First Nations is once again in the limelight because of a Vancouver resident under house arrest in Vancouver while awaiting a hearing March 1 that could see him extradited to the United States to face a murder trial.

    John Boy Graham has been accused of the murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, a shocking charge since Aquash's unsolved murder 29 years ago has long been considered the work of her enemies, which include the FBI and a goon squad which terrorized residents of the Pine Ridge reserve in South Dakota. In Canada, a group of supporters materialized quickly and is lobbying Ottawa not to allow Graham's extradition.

    They see a repetition of the experience of Leonard Peltier, a militant in the American Indian Movement who was himself extradited from Alberta in 1976 and who is still incarcerated at Leavenworth prison in Kansas. This is despite the expose of the evidence that convicted him as being perjured and worldwide demands for a new trial.

    His supporters consider the charge against Graham politically motivated. They say it is ludicrous that Graham would ever murder Aquash, a close friend and fellow AIM activist. More likely, they say, the enemies of First Nations struggle are seeking to cast a different light on a case that has long held the U.S. justice system up to unfavourable world scrutiny.

    "Anna Mae was being hunted by the FBI and her life had been threatened by the FBI," said Graham in an interview at the house of a Vancouver supporter. "They're hoping to destroy Leonard's case and clear themselves on Anna Mae's case, like they want to destroy AIM and the indigenous peoples' struggle."

    Graham and Aquash were both Canadians – he from the Champagne Aishihik band in the Yukon, she a Mi’qmak from Nova Scotia – who worked with AIM in trying to prevent the loss and environmental destruction of Lakota lands. The area was targeted for its rich uranium deposits that were eventually transferred illegally to mining interests by band chief Dickie Wilson in 1975.

    Both were on the scene shortly after the infamous "Incident and Oglala" in which armed police led by the FBI had a gunfight with members of an encampment on private property at Pine Ridge. Two FBI agents and an AIM member died in that battle, which ensued after an attempt to arrest a man for petty theft. Later that year Aquash, who had been questioned and fingerprinted by the FBI and unsuccessfully pressured to give evidence against her friends, was found dead and frozen on the prairie.

    The extradition attempt centres on the testimony of an alleged friend of Graham, Arlo Looking Cloud. A homeless man and an alcoholic, Looking Cloud had reportedly told the FBI that he was with Graham when he executed Aquash on the grounds that she was informant. According to Graham's supporters, Looking Cloud was not proving to be a reliable witness, so the FBI came looking for Graham.

    Graham was visited four times by the FBI while he lived in Whitehorse during the late Eighties and Nineties. "The first time, in 1988, they said they were investigating Anna Mae's murder. I suggested David Price (the FBI agent who interrogated and subsequently investigated Aquash's death) and paid informant Douglas Durham. They claimed it was someone in AIM.

    "They offered me witness protection if I'd go down and testify against the AIM leadership. I said I didn't need immunity; I'd done nothing to get immunity for.

    "They told me they'd pin all this on me if I didn't cooperate, and that's what they're doing."

    The bizarre facts around Aquash's death have been the subject of many books and investigative articles. Agent Price claimed he couldn't identify Aquash's body; she was buried as a Jane Doe, but not before her hands were cut off for fingerprint identification. An exhumation and second autopsy revealed the gunshot wound to the head that had killed her, something supposedly missed by the initial autopsy.

    In a parallel to Graham's case, Aquash was also asked to give testimony to convict two men around the killings of the FBI agents in the Pine Ridge shootout. "Anna Mae wouldn't cooperate with them. They took the killings of those two agents very, very personal. They were swearing to get everyone involved." Aquash feared for her life, a fear that was tragically borne out.

    Graham thinks his case is the FBI's way of undermining persistent efforts by supporters to free Leonard Peltier, who was extradited from Canada where he'd fled in 1976 on perjured testimony. Graham said Peltier obviously did not receive a fair trial, and he fears the same for himself if the extradition is successful.

    Graham has been under house arrest after several weeks’ incarceration and recently beat an attempt to put him back into jail.

    For several years Graham continued his activities, working variously in the United States on Peltier's defense committee and organizing opposition to uranium mining in Saskatchewan. In 1981, he was involved in the founding by the AIM leadership of the Anna Mae Aquash Survival Camp in Pinehouse, Saskatchewan. In more recent years he worked on construction in Whitehorse and in Greater Vancouver.

    Bob Newbrook was the RCMP officer who arrested Peltier in Hinton, Alberta. He didn't give it another thought, he says, until the documentary Incident at Oglala changed his mind and started years of investigation in Peltier's case. Now a financial planner and activist with Amnesty International, he has worked for years to see Peltier freed. He has written several key officials in the US and Canada for several years, including, most recently, federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotter, urging an above board, fair extradition hearing. Regarding the Peltier case, "I think it's all about feeling vindictive. I think they want Graham because he's the last loose end."

    Tom Kozar is a retired BC trade unionist who's been a member of the Peltier Defence committee for more than 20 years. He says the US is using its highly controversial Patriot Act, enacted in the wake of 9-11, in extradition cases. Coupled with Canada's Anti-Terrorism bill, it could mean Graham's extradition case might be based on hearsay evidence, which the Patriot Act allows.

    "Every Canadian has the obligation not to let what happened to Leonard Peltier happen again," says Kozar, who wants the Canadian Labour Congress to try for intervener status in the case.

    Graham also sees links between the climate of 9-11 and his situation. "There's no such thing as getting a fair trial in a country that doesn't live by the rule of the law. If they'll lie about Iraq and Palestine, they'll lie about Pine Ridge."

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