Tuesday, October 14, 2014

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More Than Enough Time Served

Steven Katsineris with another one of his older pieces highlighting the imprisonment of Oscar Lopez Rivera. It featured in Green Left Weekly on 15 May 2011. Steven Katsineris is an Australian freelance writer of articles on Palestine, Cyprus and the rest of the Middle East region, political prisoners and human rights, environmental and social issues. He has been actively involved in the Palestine solidarity movement for over forty years. Steven Katsineris lives with his family in Melbourne, Australia.  
  • I don’t have any blood on my hands. I haven’t victimized anyone. And I’ve devoted most of my life serving a just and noble cause and struggling to help make this world a better and more just one -  Oscar Lopez Rivera, in a Febuary 2011 letter. 
For over 30 years Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera has been imprisoned in the United States for his activities in support of freedom and independence for his country, the island of Puerto Rico. 
 
Oscar Lopez Rivera was arrested on May 29, 1981 and accused of seditious conspiracy. He was later sentenced to 70 years in prison. He has now served 32 years in prison, 12 years of that in total isolation. These harsh conditions did not break Oscar’s spirit, which they were seemingly intended to do. He remains a strong and dignified man despite his long ordeal.
Despite the lengthy imprisonment of Oscar on February 18, 2011 the U.S. Parole Commission issued a decision in the case of Oscar López Rivera, stating “Deny parole. Continue to a 15-year reconsideration hearing in January 2026 or continue to expiration, whichever comes first.” 
Then in early May 2011 on the eve of the 30th anniversary of Oscar’s arrest, the U.S. Parole Commission denied his appeal to reconsider the February 18 ruling denying parole. The Commission justified its decision by assigning him responsibility for conduct he was never accused or convicted of. The Commission disregarded the evidence establishing that Oscar met all the criteria for parole and also overlooked its own rules in the process.
Oscar has the support of a broad section of Puerto Rico’s civil society, as well as the Puerto Rican and Latino communities across the USA. Oscar was not accused or convicted of causing injury or taking life. During President Clinton presidency he stated that Oscar Lopez Rivera’s sentence was disproportionately lengthy and that Oscar should be released in September of 2009.

Oscar’s co-defendants were released as a result of the 1999 Clinton clemency and are now productive, law-abiding citizens, fully integrated into civil society. The other of Oscar’s remaining co-defendants, Puerto Rican political prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres was released in July 2010.

This decision ignores the express will of the Puerto Rican people and those who believe in justice and human rights, including the tens of thousands of voices supporting his immediate release. Among these many ignored voices are members of legislatures, including the United States Congress; the state legislatures of New York, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania; the city councils and county boards of many locales in the U.S. and Puerto Rico; the mayors of many towns in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, including the Association of Mayors of Puerto Rico; bar associations including the Puerto Rico Bar Association, the National Lawyers Guild and the American Association of Jurists; clergy and religious organizations, including the Ecumenical Coalition representing every religious denomination in Puerto Rico; human rights advocates, academics, students, artists, community organizations and workers.

The White House has recently proposed to initiate a process of to resolve the status of Puerto Rico. A true process of self-determination under international law should be accompanied by the goodwill gesture of releasing of political prisoners. The Commission’s adverse decision is at odds with such an essential step towards a positive resolution to this situation.

The United States government consistently demands that other governments, in order to establish their democratic credentials, release political prisoners in their custody. The Commission’s adverse decision today demonstrates conduct inconsistent with what the U.S. demands of other governments.

The National Boricua Human Rights Network is an organization of Puerto Ricans in the US, which campaigns for the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera.

Oscar is now 70 years old and 30 years is more than enough time served. Another 15 years in prison is utterly cruel and excessive. Together we can make a difference to ending this gross injustice.  

Help publicize this worthy cause and support the ongoing international campaign demanding the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera. We need to continue to apply the pressure. We need everyone to continue to write letters, post on your websites, Facebook and tweet. We can make an impact with calls and letters. For more information contact here.

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