WBEZ | political prisoners http://www.wbez.org/tags/political-prisoners Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Bahrain teachers’ trial and Amnesty International’s 50th anniversary http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-06/bahrain-teachers%E2%80%99-trial-and-amnesty-international%E2%80%99s-50th-anniversary-915 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-06/bahrain.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In March, the Bahraini government initiated a deadly crackdown on Shiite-led protests against the ruling regime. Backed by Saudi-led troops, security forces squashed the demonstrations. The government opposition says they lost 30 people to the unrest.</p><p>Beth Ann Toupin, Bahrain and Iraq Country Specialist for <a href="http://www.amnestyusa.org/" target="_blank">Amnesty International - USA</a>, has <a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/bahrain" target="_blank">followed the crackdown</a> closely. She has been paying particular attention to the story of two Bahraini teachers who were detained and are now on trial for their involvement in pro-reform protests. Now, the teachers are both are on hunger strike. Beth explains how their resistance fits into the larger context of protesters' struggle against Bahrain's government.</p><p>We also speak to David Safran, a local folk singer who will perform at Amnesty International's upcoming anniversary concert in Chicago. The event, “<a href="http://www.amnestyusa.org/events/a-toast-to-freedom-a-benefit-concert-honoring-amnesty-international-s-50th-anniversary" target="_blank">A Toast to Freedom: A Benefit Concert Honoring Amnesty International's 50th Anniversary</a>,” celebrates the organization's history of fighting human rights violations.</p></p> Tue, 06 Sep 2011 16:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-06/bahrain-teachers%E2%80%99-trial-and-amnesty-international%E2%80%99s-50th-anniversary-915 Parole hearing goes poorly for Puerto Rican nationalist http://www.wbez.org/story/alejandro-luis-molina/parole-hearing-goes-poorly-puerto-rican-nationalist <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Susler.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>A parole hearing did not go well for a Chicagoan that Puerto Rican nationalists call a patriot. <br /><br />The prisoner, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/alejandro-luis-molina/puerto-rican-nationalist-argue-parole">Oscar López Rivera</a>, 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.<br /><br />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.<br /><br />In the end, the examiner said he&rsquo;d recommend at least another 12 years for the prisoner, according to his attorney, Jan Susler of Chicago.<br /><br />&ldquo;It was shameful,&rdquo; Susler said on her way home from the prison. &ldquo;The Parole Commission had no business allowing these people to attend or to attempt to influence the decision.&rdquo;<br /><br />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.<br /><br />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.</p></p> Wed, 05 Jan 2011 22:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/alejandro-luis-molina/parole-hearing-goes-poorly-puerto-rican-nationalist Puerto Rican nationalist to argue for parole http://www.wbez.org/story/alejandro-luis-molina/puerto-rican-nationalist-argue-parole <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Oscar_Lopez_Rivera.gif" alt="" /><p><p>A former Chicagoan that some Puerto Ricans call a political prisoner will make his case to walk free. <br /><br />A U.S. Parole Commission examiner is set to hear arguments Wednesday morning from Oscar López Rivera at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., according to Johanna Markind, assistant general counsel for the commission.<br /><br />López Rivera, 67, is the last imprisoned Puerto Rican independence advocate among more than a dozen convicted in the 1980s of seditious conspiracy. Authorities accused him of leading the FALN, the Spanish acronym for Armed Forces of National Liberation.<br /><br />The group emerged in 1974 and claimed responsibility for dozens of bombings, mostly in the New York and Chicago areas. The assaults killed at least five people and injured more than 70 others.<br /><br />But authorities didn&rsquo;t charge the Puerto Ricans with killing or injuring anyone. So, according to López Rivera&rsquo;s supporters, it would be wrong to keep him locked up.<br /><br />&ldquo;You have murderers and rapists freed after 10 to 12 years,&rdquo; said Chicago activist Alejandro Luis Molina, a leader of a campaign urging parole. &ldquo;On the other hand, you have Oscar López Rivera, who was not convicted of shedding one drop of human blood, serving a 70-year sentence. And he&rsquo;s in his 30th year of incarceration.&rdquo;<br /><br />But some victims of FALN attacks want him to serve out the term. &ldquo;Oscar López is a sworn terrorist; unrepentant and dangerous,&rdquo; wrote Joseph F. Connor, whose father died in a 1975 bombing of a New York City tavern. &ldquo;He has done nothing to assist the U.S. government or its citizens to resolve unsolved FALN crimes.&rdquo;<br /><br />López Rivera was sentenced to 55 years after a 1981 conviction of seditious conspiracy, weapons violations and other charges. In 1988, he received an additional 15 years for conspiring to escape prison. His attorney, Jan Susler of Chicago, said this week the charge resulted from a sting operation.<br /><br />In 1999, President Clinton offered clemency to most of the imprisoned Puerto Ricans. López Rivera declined the offer, partly because it excluded his comrade Carlos Alberto Torres, said Susler, who represents both men.<br /><br />A campaign for Torres&rsquo;s parole led to his release from a downstate Illinois prison last July. After more than 30 years behind bars, Torres returned to a hero&rsquo;s homecoming in Chicago&rsquo;s Humboldt Park neighborhood before settling in Puerto Rico.<br /><br />López Rivera, a Vietnam veteran, turns 68 on Thursday. His Chicago relatives include a younger brother, José López, who directs the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, an influential Humboldt Park group. López Rivera would settle in Puerto Rico if he received parole, his supporters say.<br /><br />Markind said the case&rsquo;s examiner will also hear Wednesday from some victims of the bombings. Opponents of López Rivera&rsquo;s parole bid have &ldquo;inundated&rdquo; the commission with calls in recent days, she added.<br /><br />Meanwhile, Markind said, the commission has received more than three large boxes of letters urging parole.<br /><br />The commission, a Department of Justice unit based in Maryland, is led by a four-member board appointed by the president. Markind said it could take months for the commission to decide López&rsquo;s fate.</p></p> Wed, 05 Jan 2011 12:35:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/alejandro-luis-molina/puerto-rican-nationalist-argue-parole Puerto Ricans to welcome freed ‘patriot’ http://www.wbez.org/story/news/local/puerto-ricans-welcome-freed-%C3%A2%E2%82%AC%CB%9Cpatriot%C3%A2%E2%82%AC%E2%84%A2 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/cityroom_20100726_cmitchell_146741_Puer_large.png" alt="" /><p><p><strong>A federal prison in downstate Illinois is scheduled to release an Oak Park and River Forest High School alumnus today. Carlos Alberto Torres once topped the FBI's Most Wanted list. After his 1980 arrest in Evanston, prosecutors called Torres a terrorist. A jury found him guilty of seditious conspiracy. But some Puerto Ricans on Chicago's Northwest Side are planning a hero's homecoming. <br /><br /></strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/content.aspx?audioID=43422"><strong>Freed Prisoner Defends Armed Struggle</strong></a><strong>: An interview with Carlos Alberto Torres.</strong><br /><br />The posters for today's celebration call Carlos Alberto Torres a patriot.</p> <p>LOPEZ: Carlos has spent 30 years in prison.</p> <p>José López directs the Puerto Rican Cultural Center here in Humboldt Park.</p> <p>LOPEZ: That's longer than almost any political prisoner in the world.</p> <p>Torres worked in a Puerto Rican movement that opposed U.S. control of the island. Authorities called him a leader of the FALN. The Spanish acronym stands for Armed Forces of National Liberation.</p> <p>The group emerged in 1974. It claimed responsibility for dozens of bombings and armed robberies, mostly in New York and Chicago. The assaults killed five people and injured more than 70 others.</p> <p>The targets included the Cook County Building, the Merchandise Mart and a shopping mall in northwest suburban Schaumberg.</p> <p>MITCHELL: One of the most daring attacks was in a building that was here at Dearborn and Washington downtown. It was March 15, 1980. The Carter-Mondale presidential campaign was using a couple floors for a headquarters. A half-dozen FALN members with shotguns and rifles burst in. They bound and gagged people, ransacked the offices and spray-painted Puerto Rican independence slogans.</p> <p>BERG: People took up arms as a way to push things forward.</p> <p>The University of Pennsylvania's Dan Berger is an expert on 1970s radicalism.</p> <p>BERG: Groups like the FALN, the Weather Underground, the Black Liberation Army and others were all shaped by an extreme sense of state repression -- of people being killed, arrested, locked up, forced into exile.</p> <p>The FALN had ties to clandestine groups in Puerto Rico. Torres's attorney is Jan Susler of Chicago.</p> <p>SUSLER: A body of international law developed that said colonialism really is a crime against humanity, and people who are colonized have a right to use any means at their disposal, including armed struggle, to fight that crime against humanity.</p> <p>JONES: You might say that that was a laudable goal, but their methods of obtaining it were obnoxious and atrocious to the American system of justice.</p> <p>Walter Jones Jr. was a federal prosecutor in Chicago who helped convict Torres and nine other accused FALN members in a 1981 trial.</p> <p>JONES: They were saboteurs. It wasn't like they were walking out in a uniform, telling people that &lsquo;We were openly declaring war on you,' but a cowardly act of leaving bombs lying around. It was the first time that we ever locked down the federal courthouse so that you had to come in through security. I certainly was frightened at the time.</p> <p>Authorities arrested others with alleged ties to Puerto Rican armed groups. And the movement lost steam.</p> <p>Years later, a campaign for the prisoners' release led to a 1999 clemency offer from President Clinton. The offer excluded Torres.</p> <p>Now he's spent three decades behind bars. The U.S. Parole Commission has agreed to let him go.</p> <p>José López, the cultural-center director, says Torres today is committed to a peaceful resolution of Puerto Rico's status with the United States.</p> <p>LOPEZ: He is a grandfather. He will come back and be part of that family. He will be part of the community that he comes to and he will definitely move to Puerto Rico. The others, excarcerated in 1999, have been doing a lot of good work, promoting Puerto Rican culture. I believe that Carlos will do the same thing.</p> <p>A Chicago caravan is picking Torres up at the prison this morning.</p> <p>When he walks free, the only accused FALN member still in prison will be López's brother Oscar. He refused Clinton's clemency and has been in for 29 years.<br /><br /><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/content.aspx?audioID=43422">Freed Prisoner Defends Armed Struggle</a>: An interview with Carlos Alberto Torres.</strong></p></p> Mon, 26 Jul 2010 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/news/local/puerto-ricans-welcome-freed-%C3%A2%E2%82%AC%CB%9Cpatriot%C3%A2%E2%82%AC%E2%84%A2