[News] ACLU of Puerto Rico Files Lawsuit Against FBI
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)
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
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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