[Ppnews] NY Grand Jury postponed - protests around country and PR

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Jan 12 08:19:53 EST 2008



Pro-independence Puerto Ricans subpoenaed by NYC grand jury


Associated Press Writer

7:22 PM EST, January 11, 2008


The case of three young Puerto Rican activists and artists ordered to 
appear before a Brooklyn federal grand jury has stirred up protests 
around the country and provoked outrage among supporters of the 
movement to grant independence to the U.S. territory.

Attorneys for two of the activists _ Christopher Torres and Tania 
Frontera _ said they had successfully filed motions to postpone their 
clients' Friday court dates. Supporters said that a third, Julio 
Pabon Jr., also received a postponement.

Demonstrators gathered Friday in front of the Brooklyn courthouse in 
protest of the subpoenas. Rallies also took place Thursday in Puerto 
Rico and other U.S. cities.

"We don't know why this investigation is taking place," said Ana 
Lopez, a professor of Caribbean history at Hostos Community College 
in the Bronx who helped organize the rally in New York. "All we know 
is that its purpose is to harass and intimidate hard-working Puerto 
Rican people."

Federal grand jury investigations are secret by law. Officials with 
the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of New 
York said they had no comment. None of the three Puerto Ricans have 
been charged in any crime.

Supporters of the three speculated that the FBI had expanded a probe 
that began in Puerto Rico that they said was aimed at harassing the 
legal movement to obtain independence for the U.S. territory.

In February 2006, FBI agents searched homes and a business to thwart 
what the agency at the time said was a "domestic terrorist attack" 
planned by the violent separatist People's Boricua Army, also known 
as the Macheteros, or "cane cutters."

The group was responsible for bombings and attacks in the 1970s and 
1980s and had claimed responsibility for a 1979 attack in which 
gunmen killed two U.S. sailors.

In 2005, the group's leader, Filiberto Ojeda Rios, who was wanted for 
the 1983 robbery of an armored truck depot in Connecticut, was killed 
during a shootout with FBI agents when they came to arrest him at a 
farmhouse on the island.

Federal investigators later said the FBI agents were justified in 
killing Ojeda because he opened fire first.

Frontera's attorney, Martin Stolar, said it appears the "government 
is investigating what remains of the Macheteros" after Ojeda's death.

He said his client, a Manhattan graphic designer, has no connection 
to any organization. "But she's definitely been a lifelong supporter 
of independence," he said.

Frontera was a member of a local group opposed to the military 
bombing of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques by the U.S. Navy during 
the 1990s, her supporters said. Her father is also a leading member 
of the Puerto Rican Independence Party.

Stolar said such political activities were "very much aboveground." 
He questioned the federal government's probe.

"We see it as a targeting of aboveground individuals and 
organizations and associations and conflating that with someone who 
is involved with the Macheteros," Stolar said.

Attorneys for Torres, a social worker and community activist, and 
Pabon, a Bronx filmmaker and graduate of Wesleyan University in 
Middletown, Conn., declined to comment.

Pabon's father, Julio Pabon Sr., said he was at his sports 
memorabilia shop in the Bronx a few days before Christmas when agents 
who identified themselves as members of the FBI/NYPD Joint Terrorist 
Task Force showed up asking for "Julio Pabon." The elder Pabon, a 
lifelong pro-independence activist, instinctively thought they were 
looking for him.

"We want the younger one," he said the agents told him, adding that 
they only wanted to talk to his son.

The elder Pabon was astonished, he said.

"I have been an activist all my life," he said. "My son is not involved."

But he said his 27-year-old son was definitely pro-independence like 
his parents and, while at the university, had organized a group of 
fellow students from Wesleyan to travel to the U.S. naval base in 
Groton, Conn., to protest the bombing of Vieques. Pabon said he and 
his son knew the other two who had been subpoenaed as well.

Pabon said his son agreed to be questioned by the agents, who showed 
him photographs of Latinos and asked him if he recognized any of the 
people in them before handing him the subpoena with the date of Jan. 11.

Pabon said the agents told his son there was "nothing to be concerned about."

Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917 but they cannot vote 
for president and have no voting representation in Congress. The 
island was seized by the U.S. at the end of the Spanish-American War.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material 
may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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