Lopez Rivera fi­nally gets his free­dom

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

PUERTO Rico’s in­de­pen­dence leader and long­est held po­lit­i­cal pris­oner in the US from Latin Amer­ica will soon be set free, af­ter his sen­tence was com­muted by out­go­ing US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

The United States gov­ern­ment ear­lier an­nounced the re­lease of Os­car Lopez Rivera, who has been im­pris­oned in the US for 36 years for his strug­gle to free Puerto Rico from US colo­nial rule.

Obama com­muted Lopez’s sen­tence, which will ex­pire on May 17, ac­cord­ing to a list of com­mu­ta­tions an­nounced by the White House.

Cel­e­bra­tions started al­most im­me­di­ately. Clarissa Lopez, daugh­ter of Lopez, was to hold a press con­fer­ence yesterday in re­ac­tion to his re­lease at the Roberto Cle­mente Coli­seum in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Lopez was born in Puerto Rico in 1943 and upon re­turn­ing to Chicago af­ter serv­ing in the Viet­nam War, he joined the strug­gle for Puerto Ri­can rights.

He par­tic­i­pated in acts of civil dis­obe­di­ence and other ac­tions. In 1976, he joined the clan­des­tine fight for the in­de­pen­dence of Puerto Rico as a mem­ber of the Armed Forces of Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion. In 1981, he was cap­tured by the FBI and ac­cused of “con­spir­acy” for his mil­i­tancy in the FALN.

At the time of his cap­ture, he pro­claimed him­self a pris­oner of war, pro­tected un­der the first pro­to­col of the Geneva Con­ven­tion of 1949. The pro­to­col pro­tects Lopez from pros­e­cu­tion for hav­ing been ar­rested in a con­flict against colo­nial oc­cu­pa­tion.

The US did not recog­nise Lopez’s de­mand and sen­tenced him to 55 years in prison and af­ter an al­leged at­tempt to es­cape, the sen­tence was in­creased to 70 years in prison, 12 of which he spent in soli­tary con­fine­ment.

For­mer US pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton in 1999 of­fered him a pardon, along with 13 FALN mem­bers who ac­cepted, but Lopez re­jected it be­cause it in­cluded com­plet­ing 10 more years in jail.

Lead­ers from around the world, as well as hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tions, have de­manded Lopez’s re­lease for many years.

On June 18, 2012, the UN De­coloni­sa­tion Com­mit­tee ap­proved a res­o­lu­tion, pro­moted by Cuba, which called for the recog­ni­tion of Puerto Rico’s right to in­de­pen­dence and self-de­ter­mi­na­tion and urged the re­lease of all pro-in­de­pen­dence pris­on­ers in the US. Te­lesur

PIC­TURE: AP

Os­car Lopez Rivera is driven to jail on July 25, 1981, af­ter be­ing con­victed of sedi­tious con­spir­acy in Chicago.

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