[Ppnews] Petition drive seeks freedom for Oscar Lopez Rivera
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Nov 28 11:34:01 EST 2012
Petition drive seeks freedom for Oscar Lopez Rivera
November 27 2012
ORLANDO, Fla.-Supporters of Oscar Lopez Rivera
have kicked off a petition drive asking President Barack Obama to grant
clemency to the Puerto Rican independentista, who has served more than
31 years in federal custody, making him the longest-held political
prisoner in the island's history. Lopez will turn 70 on Jan. 6.
Supporters of Lopez, including his niece, spoke at an event organized by
the Orlando chapter of the National Boricua Human Rights Network
<http://boricuahumanrights.org/> on Nov. 19 and held at the Asociacion
Borinqueña in east Orlando. The NBHRN works for the decontamination of
former U.S. Navy facilities on the island of Vieques, the release of all
Puerto Rican political prisoners, and an end to political repression and
criminalization of progressive forces in the Puerto Rican community.
"This is a humanitarian effort on behalf of those in the international
community who would like to see Oscar free once and for all,"
said Zoraida Rios-Andio, vice chair of the Central Florida chapter of
the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights
"It's embarrassing for our country [for the president] to go speak about
political prisoners [in other countries] and yet keep in prison someone
who has contributed immensely to the Puerto Rican community, not only in
Chicago but across the U.S., and who inspires all of us," said New York
State Assemblyman Jose Rivera, a Democrat who represents parts of the Bronx.
So far, Lopez's supporters have collected almost 100,000 signatures. The
deadline to sign the petition and send it
<http://boricuahumanrights.org/2012/10/13/write-to-pres-obama/> to the
NBHRN is Dec. 15.
*Lopez's supporters hope a delegation can meet with the Obama
administration sometime in January to make the case for early release
for someone whom many Puerto Ricans consider an inspirational figure for
his struggle and sacrifice on behalf of independence for their homeland.
The petition to President Obama points out that "three U.S. presidents
have exercised the constitutional power of pardon to commute the
sentences of men and women in U.S. prisons for Puerto Rican
independence: President Truman in 1952, President Carter in 1979, and
President Clinton in 1999. We are mindful that all of Mr. Lopez'
co-defendants have been released, and most of them live in Puerto Rico,
where they are well respected, productive members of our civil society. ...
"We are always hopeful when we hear expressions by your administration
that political prisoners in other countries should be released, as we
eagerly await application of this policy to Oscar Lopez Rivera's case
right here at home."
At his first federal parole hearing in 2011, Lopez was denied the right
to call witnesses and to have legal observers and family members
present, while the government called 11 witnesses who sought to
implicate Lopez in acts in which he was not involved. His next parole
hearing will not be until 2026, when he will be 83.
"On behalf of our family we really want to thank everybody that has
shown solidarity in the release of our uncle, Oscar Lopez," said his
niece, Lourdes Lugo Lopez.
"It's been 31 years of not having him for celebrations as well as to
mourn," said Lugo, noting that many of Lopez's relatives, including his
mother and sister, have died during his lengthy incarceration.
Lugo urged Lopez's supporters to contact the White House asking for
clemency for Lopez. "Call the president and say, 'I heard about Oscar.
Why is he in prison?'" she said.
Lopez's release enjoys wide support in Puerto Rico, not only from
pro-independence forces, but from the Senate and House, the Bar
Association, former governors, unions, religious denominations, and
community activists, among other sectors. Lopez also has growing support
among sectors of the Latino and Puerto Rican communities in the U.S.
Lopez, born in San Sebastian, P.R., moved to Chicago when he was a
teenager. In the 1960s he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in
Vietnam, where he earned a Bronze Star. After he returned home, he
became a community activist, working on issues of poverty,
discrimination, education, and police brutality in Chicago's Puerto
According to the NBHRN, Lopez "was arrested in 1981, accused of being a
member of a clandestine force seeking independence for Puerto Rico, and
sentenced to 55 years for seditious conspiracy. He was not accused or
convicted of causing harm or taking a life.
"In 1988, as the result of a government-made conspiracy to escape, he
was given an additional 15 years."
"From 1986 to 1998, he was held in the most super maximum security
prisons in the federal prison system," says the NBHRN, "in conditions
not unlike those at Guantanamo under which 'enemy combatants,' are held,
conditions which the International Red Cross, among other human rights
organizations, have called tantamount to torture."
In prison Lopez has run educational programs for other inmates out of
his cell and has become an accomplished artist. An exhibit of his
drawings and paintings, Not Enough Space
was shown throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and Mexico.
Other speakers at the event included the Rev. Roberto Morales, of St.
John's Episcopal Church in Kissimmee, Fla.; Denise Diaz of Central
Florida Jobs with Justice and the Central Florida Labor Council for
Latin American Advancement (national and Central Florida LCLAA have both
passed resolutions calling for Lopez's release); and Rico Picard, of
community group Frente Unido 436.
Letters of support only (no money or printed materials) may be sent to
Oscar Lopez Rivera:
Oscar Lopez Rivera # 87651-024
FCI Terre Haute
P.O. Box 33
Terre Haute, Ind. 47808
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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