Parole hearing goes poorly for Puerto Rican nationalist

January 5, 2011

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(Chip Mitchell/WBEZ)
Susler: ‘It was shameful.’

A parole hearing did not go well for a Chicagoan that Puerto Rican nationalists call a patriot.

The prisoner, Oscar López Rivera, has served more than 29 years on a conviction of seditious conspiracy. Federal authorities accused him of leading a Puerto Rican independence group, the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), that set off dozens of bombs, many in Chicago.

On Wednesday, a U.S. Parole Commission examiner visited a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., where López Rivera is serving his sentence. The examiner heard from the inmate and some victims of a deadly 1975 blast for which the FALN claimed responsibility.

In the end, the examiner said he’d recommend at least another 12 years for the prisoner, according to his attorney, Jan Susler of Chicago.

“It was shameful,” Susler said on her way home from the prison. “The Parole Commission had no business allowing these people to attend or to attempt to influence the decision.”

Susler points out that López Rivera was convicted of seditious conspiracy, not a particular attack. She claims he had nothing to do with the 1975 bombing.

Johanna Markind, assistant general counsel for the commission, said the parole recommendation will go to an executive reviewer and, eventually, a four-member board that heads the commission. She said a final decision could take months.