[Ppnews] No parole for Puerto Rican Oscar Lopez Rivera

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 5 20:42:47 EST 2011

Examiner: No parole for Puerto Rican nationalist

By BEN FOX - Jan 5, 2011
By The Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) ­ A hearing examiner 
said Wednesday he doesn't believe a Puerto Rican 
nationalist who once turned down a clemency offer 
from President Clinton should be paroled after 
nearly 30 years in prison, the inmate's lawyer said.

Jan Susler, the lawyer for Oscar Lopez Rivera, 
said she will ask the U.S. Parole Commission to 
overrule the examiner's recommendation, which 
came after a closed hearing at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

"We are extremely disappointed," Susler said in a 
phone interview after the hearing. "There was no justice today."

Parole Commission officials are prohibited under 
the organization's rules from discussing the 
case, even to confirm the examiner's 
recommendation, said Johanna Markind, an 
assistant general counsel. They only release the final decision.

Markind said hearing examiner Mark Tanner would 
not be available for comment. "It is 
inappropriate for a hearing examiner to talk about an ongoing case."

Susler said that Tanner declared that Lopez's 
crimes were too serious to allow release on 
parole and that he should remain behind bars until at least 2023.

Lopez is serving a 55-year sentence for his 
conviction on seditious conspiracy, armed robbery 
and other crimes committed during a violent 
struggle for Puerto Rican independence.

He belonged to the ultranationalist Armed Forces 
of National Liberation, which claimed 
responsibility for more than 100 bombings at 
public and commercial buildings during the 1970s 
and '80s in such U.S. cities as New York, Chicago 
and Washington, as well as in Puerto Rico.

Few of the attacks caused injuries, but a bombing 
at New York's landmark Fraunces Tavern in 1975 
killed four people and injured more than 60 in a lunchtime crowd.

A survivor of the tavern bombing and three 
relatives of victims testified at Wednesday's 
hearing at the prison, according to Susler, who 
opposed the testimony because Lopez wasn't 
convicted of any direct role in the attack.

"I feel their loss, I regret their loss. They've 
lived something that's terrible, but they have 
nothing to offer in the case we are here to talk 
about today," Susler said. "Oscar Lopez was never 
accused of anything related to Fraunces Tavern."

Clinton offered in 1999 to release Lopez and 13 
other Puerto Rican nationalists as part of what 
was at the time a politically sensitive clemency 
deal. Lopez turned it down because two other 
comrades were not included in the offer and he 
vowed to serve out the remainder of his term. In 
the end, 12 nationalists were released under the 
deal and the two that Lopez wanted freed at the time have since been released.

Now the 67-year-old Lopez wants his freedom as 
well. His brother Jose said he made the parole 
application, his first, largely so he can spend 
time with his daughter and granddaughter and other family.

"We had a very long and personal discussion in my 
family," Jose Lopez, executive director of the 
Puerto Rican Cultural Center in Chicago, said in 
a telephone interview. "We really wanted him to come home."

Four members of Congress of Puerto Rican descent 
sent a letter to the Parole Commission calling 
for Lopez, a Vietnam veteran who received a 
Bronze Star for valor, to be freed on parole. 
They noted Clinton's clemency offer in 1999 and 
said they do not believe Lopez poses a risk.

"Notably, of all the Puerto Ricans convicted for 
politically motivated activities in the early 
1980s, Mr. Lopez-Rivera is the only one who 
remains in prison," said the letter, which was 
signed by Reps. Jose Serrano and Nydia Velazquez 
of New York, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and Pedro 
Pierluisi, Puerto Rico's nonvoting House delegate.

Copyright © 2010 Associated Press. All rights 
reserved. This material may not be published, 
broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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