Faln Activists Pardon Debate
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FALN--the Spanish initials for the Armed Forces of National Liberation. The charges against these F.A.L.N. members stem from 3 cases in Illinois and Connecticut in the 1980's. Eight were convicted of seditious conspiracy (essentially a charge of treason, but prosecutors need to show only that a defendant planned to do something), weapons charges, and other counts in connection with an armed robbery in Evanston in 1980, and plotting another. Three others were convicted of seditious conspiracy in a 1983 plot to bomb two military installations in Chicago. The remaining released member, Juan Enrique Segarra-Palmer, was convicted of planning a robbery of a Wells Fargo depot in Connecticut in 1983. With a host of other charges, he was sentenced to 55 years in prison, and is still slated to serve until 2004.
President Clinton offered on Wednesday to commute the sentences of 16 members of a Puerto Rican independence group if they sign agreements renouncing the use of violence. Their group staged some 130 bomb attacks on political and military targets in the United States from 1974 to 1983.
Justice Department spokeswoman Chris Watney declined to explain Clinton's reasons for the decision. She did say the Justice Department, as is customary, submitted a report and recommendation to Clinton, but declined to describe it.
Puerto Rico's governor applauded President Clinton's offer. ``I believe (Clinton) did this in the most prudent and just manner possible,'' pro-statehood Gov. Pedro Rossello said after the White House stunned this U.S. territory with the clemency announcement. Rossello has long opposed clemency for the prisoners - seen by many here as political prisoners - as long as they refused to renounce violence or profess remorse for their actions.
``The persons here were not convicted in cases involving death or serious injury,'' the official said. They were convicted, in some cases, of armed robbery and supplying resources for FALN activities.
Prosecutors branded those convicted for FALN activities as terrorists. But in recent months, Puerto Rican and U.S. church leaders, politicians and residents have sent 75,000 signatures to the White House to demand the prisoners' freedom. South Africa's retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Coretta Scott King, widow of the slain civil rights leader; and three members of Congress are among them.
Bombings attributed to the FALN killed six people and wounded dozens, but the 11 offered immediate clemency were not directly involved the deaths and injuries, officials said. The 13 didn't defend themselves at trial, saying they didn't recognize U.S. legal jurisdiction over them.
Independence activists condemned a conditional U.S. offer of clemency for 11 islanders convicted of sedition, saying it only underscored Puerto Rico's colonial status. ``These conditions are inviting a confrontation,'' said Luis Nieves Falcon, leader of a campaign to free 16 Puerto Ricans linked by U.S. prosecutors to a wave of U.S. bombings in the 1970s and 1980s. ``These are shameful demands,'' said Lolita Lebron, who in 1979 was pardoned by President Carter for a 1954 shooting attack on the House of Representatives. ``The president has insulted the dignity of the Puerto Rican nation and those who fight for its liberty.''
In 1980 a van was pulled over for a minor traffic violation by a police officer with two young children at home. Noticing the occupants were acting strange, the officer requested to see the contents in the back of the van. The rear doors opened to expose an arsenal in the back of the vehicle with several other occupants. Suddenly the officer knew all too well who he had unwittingly pulled over, a political terrorist group deemed the FALN. Thankfully, the police department called for backup upon hearing the description of the van and assistance was on its way. But before it would get there, the newly-deemed "activists" debated about "offing the f****ing cop." These people are now no longer a threat? Look at the trial transcripts so you can read first-hand about the debate over the fate of this young officer, my father. Let them free? Not a threat? That remains to be seen. SUBMITTED BY S L
Our president is making another attempt to pander sickeningly to a NYC voting block. I expect the Puerto Rican people of New York to see through this disgusting political maneuver and reject the call for pardon. Do any people want terrorists associated with their good name? I think not.
FBI officials have complained about granting leniency to members of a militant group that had claimed responsibility for terrorist acts at a time when the United States was engaged in a worldwide battle against terrorism
Some imprisoned members of a militant Puerto Rican nationalist group discussed returning to violent ways if they go free under a plan by President Clinton to have their sentences commuted, a magazine report said Monday. Secret audiotapes made by the Bureau of Prisons recorded at least some of the prisoners saying that ``as soon as they get out of there, they were going to return to violence,'' Newsweek quoted a law-enforcement official as saying in its issue dated Sept. 6.
A top aide to John Cardinal O'Connor said yesterday the archbishop of New York never backed clemency for FALN terrorists - despite White House claims that he did.
White House scandal spokesman Jim Kennedy yesterday cited O'Connor's 1996 letter to Attorney General Janet Reno asking her to review whether "justice has been served by [their] time already spent in prison."
But Zwilling said it would be "wrong" to conclude that the cardinal, who wrote to Reno after he met with clemency advocates at their request, was pro-clemency. "That [letter] does not indicate or imply in any way that he has taken a position or was suggesting an outcome," Zwilling said.
New York's Democratic senators joined nearly all their colleagues in the U.S. Senate in condemning President Clinton's offer of clemency to Puerto Rican militants. The Senate voted 95-2 Tuesday to denounce the deal, which allowed 11 Puerto Rican prisoners to leave federal prisons last week after nearly two decades. The House of Representatives approved a similar nonbinding resolution last week 311-41. New York Sens. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Charles Schumer, both Democrats, voted for the Senate resolution opposing the clemency.
The activist who successfully lobbied the White House for the release of 14 jailed Puerto Rican separatists was a leader in the terrorist organization FALN, a congressional report alleges.
The report said that Luis Nieves Falcon, who corresponded with several top Clinton administration officials on the clemency, was a member and leader of the militant Puerto Rican independence group.
The report, prepared by the Committee on Government Reform, included letters documenting Falcon's correspondence and at least one meeting with the Clinton administration.
"The fact that the White House and the Department of Justice were negotiating with a terrorist leader, and working with him as partner to achieve the goal of letting the terrorists out of prison is unconscionable," Burton wrote.
Jim Kennedy, of the White House Counsel's Office, said Falcon was one of the leading advocates for the prisoners' release but was not involved in negotiations. "The notion that the White House negotiated with a terrorist is pure partisan fantasy," Kennedy said.
Burton said the frequent correspondence with Falcon was an "insult to the victims" of FALN bombings who have testified at recent Capitol Hill hearings that the administration did not answer their letters.
Subpoenas issued by Burton's committee turned up letters to Falcon from seven high-ranking Clinton administration officials, including then-White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Maria Echaveste. Most were routine letters acknowledging the receipt of information and letters that Falcon had sent on the prisoners' behalf. Others answered Falcon's questions about the transfer of prisoners and other inquiries.
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