[News] ACLU of Puerto Rico Files Lawsuit Against FBI

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 21 15:36:48 EDT 2006


ACLU of Puerto Rico Files Lawsuit Against FBI for Wrongfully 
Attacking Journalists During a Raid (9/20/2006)
http://www.aclu.org/freespeech/gen/26798prs20060920.html

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: <mailto:media at aclu.org>media at aclu.org

SAN JUAN, PR - The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of 
Puerto Rico today filed a lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of 
Investigations for violating the civil rights of more than 20 
reporters in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The journalists were beaten, 
maced, and prevented from covering a significant news story even 
though they were violating no laws.

"At issue is a fundamental freedom guaranteed by both the 
Constitution of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of 
Puerto Rico, that of freedom of the press.   ," said William Ramirez, 
Director of the ACLU of Puerto Rico National Chapter.

The lawsuit, filed today in the U.S. District Court in San Juan, 
Puerto Rico, outlines the FBI's violations of the journalists' civil 
rights. According to ACLU legal papers, on February 10, 2006, federal 
agents physically assaulted reporters covering a high-profile FBI 
raid on the home of Lilian Laboy, a prominent political activist 
believed to be associated with the movement for Puerto Rican independence.

The lawsuit describes how the FBI acted illegally and violated the 
First Amendment rights of the reporters by impeding their ability to 
cover the story, thereby also impeding the rights of the public to be 
informed. It also gives an account of how the use of excessive force 
was a violation of the reporters' Fourth Amendment rights to be free 
from unreasonable search and seizure.
The ACLU is asking the court to ensure the safety and First Amendment 
rights of the media when covering future FBI operations in Puerto 
Rico by banning the further use of pepper spray and excessive force 
against reporters attempting to gather the news.
"The right to gather and report on the news is explicitly guaranteed 
by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States," 
said Mark Lopez, a Senior Staff Attorney with the National ACLU, 
which is based in New York. "The media performs an essential role in 
an informed public and in ensuring the accountability of our 
government.  When federal officials interfere with that role they 
strike at the core of our democratic freedom."
The events leading to this lawsuit, Asociacion de Periodistas de 
Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Journalists Association, Overseas Press Club 
of Puerto Rico, et al., v. Robert Muellerand Ten Unknown Agents of 
the Federal Bureau of Investigation, et al., followed the September 
2005 killing of Filiberto Ojeda-Rios, a pro-independence leader who 
was wanted by the FBI.   [why is this relevant? Was the press 
assaulted during this search also? If not, I would leave out.]
The ACLU lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Puerto Rican Journalists 
Association, the Overseas Press Club of Puerto Rico, Normando 
Valentin, Victor Sanchez, Joel Lago Roman, Cossette Donalds Brown, 
Victor Fernandez, and Annette Alvarez. It names Robert Mueller, 
Director of the FBI and also makes a claim for monetary damages 
against 10 unknown FBI agents and several named agents, including 
Agent Luis Fraticelli, Puerto Rico's lead agent.
Lopez, Ramirez, the legal staff of the ACLU of Puerto Rico National 
Chapter and cooperating attorney Nora Vargas-Acosta, of San Juan, 
Puerto Rico, are representing the reporters and news organizations.

The ACLU complaint is online at 
<http://www.aclu.org/freespeech/gen/26800lgl20060210.html>www.aclu.org/freespeech/gen/26800lgl20060210.html


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