Clinton offers clemency to 11 Puerto Rican independence activists
By KEVIN GALVIN
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Clinton offered clemency Wednesday
to 11 members of a Puerto Rican independence group that staged some 130
bomb attacks on political and military targets in the United States from 1974
to 1983, administration officials said.
One official, who spoke on condition anonymity, said that the prisoners
not involved in any deaths and that they would be required to renounce
violence as a condition of their pardon.
Clinton's action was in response to a campaign by human rights advocates
who have argued that members of the group known by the Spanish initials
FALN were punished too harshly in light of their crimes. He acted on the
recommendation of Charles F.C. Ruff, the chief counsel who left his White
House post last Friday.
"What the president did, based on the recommendation of counsel, was
grant clemency to individuals on a case-by-case basis that recognized the
serious nature of the crimes that they were convicted of but also took into
account the excessive nature of the sentences that were imposed upon them
20 years ago," said the administration official.
"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.
The Justice Department was expected to announce the decision Wednesday
Prosecutors branded those convicted for FALN activities as terrorists.
in recent months, Puerto Rican and U.S. church leaders, politicians and
citizens 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.
Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States after the Spanish-American
War in 1898. It is a U.S. commonwealth that enjoys local autonomy but has
no vote in Congress or for president. The FALN, the Spanish initials for
Armed Forces of National Liberation, was committed to independence for
Bombings attributed to the FALN killed six people and wounded dozens,
but the 11 offered clemency were not directly involved with 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.
Two other prisoners for whom human rights activists have sought pardons
were convicted in a $7.5 million armored truck robbery in West Hartford,
Conn. The 1983 robbery was to finance the separatist group Los
Macheteros, which has attacked U.S. government installations in Puerto
There is precedent for pardons. In 1977 and 1979, President Carter
pardoned four Puerto Rican nationalists who were convicted in a 1954
shooting attack on Congress that wounded five lawmakers. Carter also
pardoned a fifth nationalist who was convicted of plotting to kill President
Truman in 1950.