FALN prisoners set free
In all, 11 to be released today
(CNN) -- The 11 Puerto Rican nationalists who accepted President
Clinton's clemency offer and agreed to renounce violence were released
from prison on Friday.
Alejandrina Torres was released from the federal prison at Danbury,
Connecticut. Family members said she was accompanied by her two
daughters. "I am ecstatic. I am so happy," said another daughter, Norma
Torres, about her mother's release.
Edwin Cortes left the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
was tough sometimes. It was tough for me. It was tough for him. It was tough
for my kids. But we made it," Cortes' wife, Alva, said as she waited outside for him.
Ricardo Jimenez rode out of an Indiana prison, near Terre Haute, in a
gold Mercedes, accompanied by his sister and others. "I'm elated that
I'm free, here with my family," he told reporters.
Clinton made the clemency offer last week to a total of 16 convicted Armed
Forces of National Liberation (FALN) members. Two rejected it and two
others -- who are already out of prison -- accepted the deal on Friday, just
hours before a White House deadline. By agreeing to Clinton's offer, their
fines are reduced.
Another prisoner who accepted clemency still must serve five more years
a federal prison in Florida before he is eligible for release.
'Deplorable concession to terrorists'
Granting clemency is a presidential prerogative that cannot be overruled
Congress, but lawmakers formally criticized Clinton on Thursday for being
soft on terrorism.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted 311-41 against
Clinton's clemency offer. The group opposing the president included 93
The Senate will vote on a similar resolution Monday. A draft text condemns
the president for a "deplorable concession to terrorists" that has "undermined
"There is a feeling of outrage in this country against this action," said
Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, said lawmakers had an obligation to vote
the resolution condemning Clinton's action.
"... When he elevates terrorists over other people who may well deserve
pardons much more, or having their sentence cut much more, he has abused
his power and abused his office," Sessions said.
"And it is a duty, the responsibility of this Congress to do the only thing
can. And that is to adopt a resolution that speaks clearly that we don't
accept it," he said.
Anti-Clinton motivations alleged
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, called the House resolution a "travesty"
and said it interferes in the criminal justice system.
"Why is this being rushed through? To embarrass the president and the first
lady, who is considering running for the Senate in New York," Nadler said.
The White House faces a continued political uproar next week when two
Senate committees and one in the House plan to hold hearings on the
Leading Democrats, such as presidential candidate Bill Bradley, opposed
the clemency offer -- as did Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whose New
York Senate seat Hillary Rodham Clinton hopes to win.
Many critics accused Clinton of taking the action to help his wife gain
among New York's Puerto Rican and larger Hispanic community.
The controversy then took an even more dramatic turn over last weekend
the first lady said the offer should be rescinded -- comments that drew
criticism of her from leading New York Hispanic politicians.
President says he did not discuss clemency with wife
Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn Thursday afternoon, the president
stood by his decision to free the prisoners -- and defended his wife, even though her
"It was up to her and entirely appropriate for her to say whatever she
wanted to about it. But I did what I thought was right," the president said.
He also said he didn't discuss the matter with the first lady. "I haven't
discussed other clemency issues with her and I didn't think I should discuss
this one," Clinton said.
Some law enforcement officials and Republicans say Clinton made the
clemency offer to curry favor for Mrs. Clinton among New York's 1.3
million Puerto Ricans.
But the president said politics played no role in his clemency offer to
"None of them were convicted of doing bodily harm to anyone. And they
had all served sentences that were considerably longer than they would
serve under the sentencing guidelines which control federal sentencing now,"
"I did not believe they should be held in incarceration -- in effect --
by association," he said.
The president said he received petitions on behalf of the prisoners from
hundreds of people, including former President Jimmy Carter, South African
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, other religious leaders and congressmen.
Correspondent Jonathan Karl contributed to this report.