[Ppnews] Response to Daily News attack on Oscar López Rivera
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Feb 1 10:42:25 EST 2012
A Response to the New York Daily News
Perpetuating False Charges on the 1975 Fraunces Tavern Bombing
By Jan Susler (January 26, 2012)
Oscar López Rivera, a 69-year-old decorated
Vietnam veteran, has spent 31 years in U.S.
prison for his commitment to the independence of
Puerto Rico. He has the dubious distinction of
being the longest held pro-independence prisoner
in Puerto Rico's history of seeking
self-determination - and thousands preceded him.
Convicted of seditious conspiracy in Chicago, he
is serving a sentence of 70 years, although he
was not convicted of harming or killing anyone.
If you read the New York Daily News article
published this year on January 24th, on the 37th
anniversary of the bombing of Fraunces Tavern,
you wouldn't know this . . . and you would be
left with the impression that López Rivera should
remain in prison because he is somehow
responsible for that tragic action. That is,
sadly, what the FBI has led the victims to
believe, and it is most certainly the weapon
wielded by the FBI in its unceasing efforts to
convince the public, the U.S. Parole Commission,
and the President, that López Rivera should remain in prison.
López Rivera has denied participation in the 1975
tragedy at Fraunces Tavern. There is no evidence
to connect him to it. If the FBI had such
evidence, it would surely prosecute him - but in
the 37 years since, it has not. Instead, it has
waged a campaign of guilt by association, using
its bully pulpit to prolong his imprisonment, and
thereby punish him for his commitment to the independence of Puerto Rico.
In fact, during his 1981 trial for seditious
conspiracy, López Rivera presented no defense in
court. Prosecutors risked little, if anything, in
charging him on this case. They did not charge
him - again, because there simply is not a shred
of evidence that could even remotely link him to
the Fraunces Tavern event. The New York Daily
News has done its readers - and more importantly,
truth and justice - a great disservice by
implying there is somehow some kind of link
between López Rivera and this case, a link that
somehow has mysteriously eluded prosecutors, the
courts and the FBI for more than 31 years.
A campaign for the release of López Rivera and
his co-defendants, which enjoyed broad support
throughout Puerto Rican civil society and among
the international human rights and faith
community, resulted in President Clinton's 1999
offer to commute the sentences of most of them.
Most were offered immediate release, but López
Rivera would have to serve an additional 10 years
behind bars. The others accepted the president's
offer, were welcomed as returning heroes in
Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican communities in the
U.S., and for the past 12 years have lived
productive, law-abiding lives. Out of concern
that the President's offer did not include all
those in prison for their commitment to
independence , López Rivera rejected the offer.
Had he accepted, he would have been released in
September of 2009. Those excluded from the
president's offer have since been released -
López Rivera is now the only one still in prison
from the Chicago seditious conspiracy cases of the 1980s.
That campaign continues to advocate for López
Rivera's release from prison. Recent activities
in Puerto Rico include mass demonstrations during
President Obama's June visit to the Island,
calling for his release - and elected officials
personally asking the President to release him -
; on the occasion of López Rivera's 69th
birthday, the Catholic Archbishop presiding over
a mass, and a gathering of representatives from
every sector of civil society calling for his
release; and students painting murals featuring
his face and the message "Freedom Now!" for López Rivera.
In the proud United States tradition of
exercising the constitutional power of pardon,
three U.S. Presidents have commuted the sentences
of Puerto Rican political prisoners: President
Truman in 1952, President Carter in 1979, and
President Clinton in 1999. President Obama should
not be fooled by the FBI's campaign of untruths.
For more information about the campaign for Oscar
Lopez Rivera's release, contact the National
Boricua Human Rights Network at
Jan Susler, a partner at the People's Law Office
in Chicago and member of the National Lawyers
Guild, has been working as attorney for the
Puerto Rican political prisoners for the past 30
years, and was lead counsel in the campaign
leading to the 1999 presidential commutation. She
continues to work with those who remain in
prison. She can be reached at 773-235-0070 x 118
and <mailto:jsusler at aol.com>jsusler at aol.com.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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