12 Puerto Rican nationalists agree to 'unprecedented' clemency condition
CHICAGO (CNN) -- Two Puerto Rican nationalists have one more day
to decide whether to accept a conditional clemency offer from
President Clinton which was accepted by 12 other members of the group
FALN on Tuesday.
Two imprisoned FALN members have rejected the offer of clemency.
"We think this is an unprecedented, historic moment," attorney Jan Susler
said, "that the president of the United States could recognize that men and
women who have dedicated their lives to the freedom of their country
deserve to be free ... to participate in the political, legal process to shape
the future of their country."
The dozen prisoners -- 11 of whom are eligible for immediate release --
signed papers renouncing violence to achieve political goals and agreed as a
condition of parole to sever ties with FALN.
The 12th prisoner who signed the papers will not be eligible for release
he serves five more years at a federal prison in Florida, Susler said.
The White House issued a statement saying: "The president expects all those
who accept the conditional clemency grant to abide fully by its terms,
including refraining from the use or advocacy of the use of violence for any
purpose and obeying all the statutory conditions of parole."
The prohibition on associating with one another is a common condition of
parole, and authorities said if these prisoners violate their parole, the charges
will be reinstated against them.
Attorney: Mobilizing protection for prisoners
The FBI and Justice Departments "have said pointblank that the
president should not have granted clemency," but it would be unwise for
federal authorities to harass, intimidate or set up the prisoners after they are
released, Susler said.
"Because they have showed us their hand and showed us they will not be
objective law enforcement, we have taken it upon ourselves to mobilize protection
for the prisoners and watchdog groups who will be watching the people responsible
for enforcing the conditions," Susler said.
The Armed Forces of National Liberation, known by its Spanish initials
FALN, claimed responsibility or was blamed for 130 bombings, mostly in
New York and Chicago, in the 1970s and early 1980s.
None of the 16 at the heart of the clemency offer was convicted in any
bombings. They were convicted on a variety of charges, ranging from
bomb-making and conspiracy to armed robbery, and given sentences
ranging from 35 to 90 years. The activists already have served between 14
to 19 years in prison.
The group wants Puerto Rico to be able to end its status as a U.S. territory
and create an independent country.
The clemency offer was controversial to begin with. Some New York
politicians and law enforcement groups criticized the president as being
lenient to terrorists.
Others suggested Clinton took the action to help his wife, who is planning
run for the U.S. Senate from New York, court support among New York's
Puerto Rican and larger Hispanic community.
The White House insisted politics played no part in the decision and made
the distinction that none of those offered clemency was involved in FALN
bombings linked to major injuries.
The controversy took another turn over the weekend when first lady Hillary
Clinton called on her husband to withdraw the clemency offer, saying the
failure of the 16 to immediately accept the conditions suggested they were
not prepared to renounce violence.
Some Democrats, including the senator Hillary Clinton would replace,
Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan, had called the clemency deal a bad
But now that the first lady has spoken out, Democrats who cheered the
clemency deal are calling her a turncoat.
"I am disappointed. I am angry," Rep. Jose Serrano (D-New York) said.
"And frankly, I view her and her candidacy differently after reading reports
of her comments and actions. I would be a hypocrite if I did not."
Correspondent John King and The Associated Press contributed to this report.