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Vol. 75/No. 3      January 24, 2011

Parole official opposes
freeing Puerto Rican activist
Mark Tanner, a U.S. Parole Commission official, recommended January 5 that Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar López Rivera not be granted parole. Tanner’s proposal came after a closed hearing at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, where López is currently incarcerated. The full commission will make a final decision within the next three to four months.

“He’s not being held for anything he did. He is being held for what he stands for,” commented Jan Susler, López’s attorney, after the hearing.

López, 68, has been incarcerated for nearly 30 years, one of the longest-held political prisoners in the world. He was accused of being a leader of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), which called for the independence of Puerto Rico from U.S. colonial rule. Washington said the FALN was responsible for a series of bombings beginning in 1974.

López was convicted of “seditious conspiracy.” Like 11 other independence supporters arrested in 1980, he refused to recognize the authority of the U.S. courts and was sentenced to 55 years in prison.

Before his arrest, López was a political activist in the Puerto Rican community in Chicago. He was a founder of the Rafael Cancel Miranda High School and helped launch the Committee to Free the Five Puerto Rican Nationalists.

In response to protests against U.S. colonial domination of Puerto Rico, U.S. president William Clinton pardoned 11 of 17 Puerto Rican political prisoners in 1999. López refused to accept the commutation offer, because it required him to serve 10 more years and did not include all the Puerto Rican political prisoners.

Support continues to grow for López’s release. A petition released in mid-December by the Puerto Rico Mayors Association describes his incarceration as “ideological punishment.”

“It is high time for this brother, whose only crime is his activism in favor of Puerto Rico’s independence, to come back home,” Comerío mayor Josean Santiago told the media.

The National Boricua Human Rights Network announced it will be collecting signatures on a new letter rejecting the parole official’s recommendation and calling for the commission to grant López parole.
Related articles:
Prisoners in Georgia protest dismal conditions
Texas inmate’s conviction overturned after 30 years  
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