of Carlos Alberto Torres
After 30 Years
in Prison, the Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Will Be Freed
By Marjorie Cohn
Counterpunch (July 26, 2010)
Today, Puerto Rican political
prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres will walk out of prison after 30 years
behind bars. He was convicted of seditious conspiracy - conspiring to
use force against the lawful authority of the United States over
Puerto Rico. Torres was punished for being a member of an armed
clandestine organization called the FALN (Armed Forces of National
Liberation), which had taken responsibility for bombings that
resulted in no deaths or injuries. He was not accused of taking part
in these bombings, only of being a member of the FALN.
In 1898, Puerto Rico was ceded
to the United States by Spain as war bounty in the treaty that ended
the Spanish-American War. Nevertheless, the U.S. invaded Puerto Rico
and has occupied it ever since. Puerto Ricans have always resisted
foreign occupation of their land and called for independence.
The Puerto Rican independence
movement enjoys wide support internationally. Every year for 29 years
the United Nations Decolonization Committee has passed a resolution
calling for independence. There have been similar declarations of the
Non-Aligned Movement, and recent submissions to the United Nations
Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review.
All of these expressions call
on the U.S. government to release Puerto Rican political prisoners
who have served 30 and 29 years of their disproportionately long 70
year sentences in U.S. prisons for cases related to the struggle for
Puerto Rican independence. They include Torres (who was sentenced to
30 years) and Oscar López Rivera (sentenced to 29 years), as well as
Avelino González Claudio, who was recently sentenced to seven years.
None of these men was convicted for harming anyone or taking a life.
Torres' attorney, National
Lawyers Guild member Jan Susler of Chicago, notes, "Carlos is
being released from prison due to the unflagging support of the
Puerto Rican independence movement and others who work for human
rights. The more than 10,000 letters of support from the U.S., Puerto
Rico, Mexico and other countries sent a strong message to the Parole
Supporters from all over the
United States will flock to the welcoming celebration in Chicago,
which will take place in the heart of the Puerto Rican community.
Tomorrow, Torres, his family and attorney will fly to Puerto Rico,
where thousands will greet him with a concert of the nation's finest
musicians and artists.
Yet there is a damper on the
celebration, as Torres leaves behind his compatriot Oscar López, a 67
year old decorated Viet Nam veteran. López did not accept the terms
of President Clinton's 1999 clemency offer, which would have required
him to serve an additional 10 years in prison with good conduct.
Though he declined the offer, López has now served the additional 10
years in prison with good conduct. Had he accepted the deal, he would
have been released last September. Those who did accept are living
successful lives, fully integrated into civil society. There is no
reason to treat him differently.
While we celebrate this
remarkable day in the life of Torres and the movement for Puerto
Rican independence, let us commit ourselves to continue to struggle
until Oscar López Rivera and Avelino González Claudio, as well as all
political prisoners in U.S. prisons, also walk free.
Marjorie Cohn, a professor at
Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is immediate past president of the
National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International
Association of Democratic Lawyers, and the U.S. representative to the
executive council of the American Association of Jurists.