Monday, July 26, 2010

Puerto Rican nationalist in bombings paroled

A well-known figure in Chicago's Puerto Rican community was released from federal prison today, more than three decades after taking part in a nationalist movement that terrorized the city with bombings and other violent acts.

Carlos Alberto Torres, 57, paroled after serving 30-years for seditious conspiracy related to his role in the FALN movement, was en route this afternoon to Chicago from the federal prison in downstate Marion.
Torres was not charged with any specific bombings, and his supporters called him a "political prisoner" who had served enough time and deserved to be paroled.

"I consider this a day of victory for all the people who have dedicated years of struggle for the liberty of all the political prisoners," Torres said by cell phone.

A rally was planned for 4 p.m. today on West Division Street in the heart of the Puerto Rican community.

Through the early 1980s, the FALN used homemade bombs to make a political statement, robbing banks to finance their activities. They were active primarily in Chicago and New York. Six people were killed in New York as a result of FALN violence.

Despite criticism from Mayor Richard Daley, President Clinton in 1999 offered clemency to 11 FALN prisoners, a group that did not include Torres. Family members of victims were critical of Clinton's move, saying the prisoners should be considered terrorists.

The son of a man killed by an FALN blast called the releases "a disrespectful affront to all Americans" in a newspaper op-ed last year.

Torres said he understood why some would still harbor ill feelings toward the FALN activists.

"That is the past and the past cannot change. We can only impact the moment of the present and the future," he said. "The people have a right to their opinions and it is not my place to try to convince them one way or the other."

Alejandro Molina of the Boricua Human Rights Network said supporters would be raising funds to ease Torres' transition into society. Torres is scheduled to return to his native Puerto Rico on Tuesday morning.

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