Sunday, January 08, 2012

Bar: López Rivera serving ‘longest political imprisonment in history’

Jan. 5, 2011

Puerto Rico Daily Sun

Oscar López Rivera, a Puerto Rican nationalist who has been imprisoned for almost 30 years, and who was denied parole last year, has become the longest-incarcerated political prisoner in history, the Bar Association’s Human Rights Committee announced Wednesday. Flanked by island artists, politicians and citizens, the committee’s president, Eduardo Villanueva, made the announcement at Bar Association headquarters in Miramar.
The group charged that the U.S. government’s public policy has “two sides” when it comes to requesting the liberation of political prisoners in other countries but then “they don’t set political prisoners from one of their territories free.”
“This is not a security issue, this is an ideological issue,” Toa Baja Mayor Aníbal Vega Borges said.
López Rivera’s daughter, Clarissa, recalled one of the last times she visited her father in prison, describing him as a man who has noticeably aged behind bars.
“It’s something normal for many people (watching their father age, he will turn 69 on Three Kings Day) but I have never had the opportunity to spend time with him outside of prison … he’s living in subhuman conditions. We spent 12 years without visitation rights. I became a mother and he was able to touch and hug my daughter when she was eight years old,” López said.
She added that journalist’s petitions to interview him are always denied “because they want to keep quiet.”
López called on all her friends, and island citizens to write President Obama and any other public workers to help apply pressure for the political prisoner’s freedom.
Last February, the Puerto Rican nationalist who has been imprisoned over 29 years, was denied parole, the U.S. Parole Commission announced.
López Rivera, a member of Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Puertorriqueña (FALN), a pro-independence group that claimed responsibility for bombs set off in New York City and Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s, was convicted in 1981 for seditious conspiracy, among other charges. López Rivera was sentenced to 70 years in prison.
The four-member panel decided that López Rivera, 68, who is serving time at the Federal Correctional Institution in Terre Haute Ind., should remain incarcerated.
“We have to look at whether release would depreciate the seriousness of the offenses or promote disrespect for the law, whether release would jeopardize public safety, and the specific characteristics of the offender,” said Parole Commission Chairman Isaac Fulwood Jr. in a written statement last February.
The decision comes after a January recommendation by a hearing examiner to deny parole.
In 1999, President Bill Clinton offered clemency to López and other members of the group. López Rivera turned down the offer because it did not include the release of two of his comrades.
He would have been freed in 2009 had he accepted the offer. His sister, Zenaida López, said at the time that he refused the clemency because parole would have been “prison outside prison.”
López Rivera is a polarizing figure — to his supporters he’s a political prisoner who’s been wrongly imprisoned — while his opponents view him as a terrorist with blood on his hands.
The FALN, according to authorities, was responsible for dozens of bombings, including one at the Fraunces Tavern in New York in 1975. That bombing killed four people, including Frank Connor, a 33-year-old banker.
Connor’s son, Joseph, has done everything possible to keep López in prison for allegedly killing his father.
López Rivera will likely have to wait until 2021 for a mandatory parole date for his next chance at freedom.
The U.S. Parole Commission denied him parole because they claimed any clemency towards López Rivera would lessen the severity of his crimes.

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