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2 Soviet Eye Doctors Visit Imprisoned Indian Activist

June 25, 1987|Associated Press

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — Two Soviet eye doctors on Wednesday examined an American Indian activist, who the Soviet Union considers a political prisoner and a symbol of U.S. repression, and they recommended treatment with drugs they said are available only in their country.

Leonard Peltier, former American Indian Movement leader, is serving consecutive life terms at the U.S. Penitentiary for the deaths of two FBI agents in 1975. He maintains he is innocent.

The Soviet ophthalmologists, Eduard Avetisov and Lev Katselson, said the drugs would not improve the blurred vision in Peltier's left eye but could prevent it from getting worse. Peltier said he has had eye problems since November.

"I've been fighting eight months to get some treatment," said Peltier, 42. "It took the Soviet Union to put some pressure on it."

Offer No Criticism

At a news conference at a hotel in Kansas City, Mo., however, the doctors had no criticism of Peltier's treatment by U.S. doctors.

Avetisov and Katselson spent about 2 1/2 hours at the prison. They saw Peltier in the prison hospital and also toured the prison with Warden Jerry O'Brien, said Jeff Duncan, the warden's executive assistant.

Avetisov said he and Katselson brought with them two drugs they said were developed in the Soviet Union and so far are available only there. Both are analogs of emocsipin, one to be given by injection in the eye and the other taken orally.

Avetisov said they brought enough of the two drugs for two months of treatment and will provide more if it is needed.

Peltier's case has been publicized in the Soviet Union, where officials cite it as an example of U.S. political repression.

Respond to Delegation

When members of a congressional delegation visited Moscow in April and asked that some Soviet citizens be allowed to come to the United States for medical treatment, Soviet officials responded by asking that Peltier be allowed to go to Moscow.

Avetisov, president of the Ophthalmological Society in the Soviet Union, said the doctors' visit was made for professional and humanitarian reasons.

"There were no political reasons," he said, adding: "We think that Mr. Peltier is one of the leaders of the American Indian Movement in this country. We think it would be worthwhile to reconsider the trial of Mr. Peltier."

Peltier was convicted in 1977 of killing two FBI agents at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1975.

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