By CAROL ROSENBERG
Herald Staff Writer
Nine of 11 jailed Puerto Rican nationalists whose weapons possession
sedition sentences were commuted by President Clinton asked Wednesday to be
released to San Juan -- and should be on the island commonwealth by the
weekend, according to administration sources.
The six men and five women -- ranging in age from 38-year-old Luis Rosa, now
jailed in Leavenworth, Kan., to 60-year-old Alejandrina Torres, jailed in Danbury,
Conn. -- were convicted of crimes connected to their membership in
pro-independence guerrilla groups that carried out a wave of bombings in the
United States in the 1970s and '80s.
None were actually convicted of violent acts, however.
All hailed from Chicago or elsewhere in the continental United States.
So, an administration source said Wednesday, it came as a surprise
to Bureau of
Prison officials when nine of the 11 asked to serve their parole in Puerto Rico,
rather than the mainland United States.
``Nine of them have indicated they want to live in Puerto Rico,
two in Chicago.
There is no reason the doors aren't open,'' said the prisoners' attorney, Jan Susler
Two administration sources said their release was imminent and
at least some
would be freed before the weekend.
Two agencies involved
Justice Department spokeswoman Carole Florman said Wednesday that
agencies had to approve the release of the prisoners:
Bureau of Prison officials were preparing the logistics
-- getting the Federal
Parole Board to specify the names and addresses of their Puerto Rico and
Chicago parole officers and establishing how they would be transported from their
prisons to the communities where they would live.
White House legal counsels were reviewing the documents
renouncing violence. (An administration source, meanwhile, said the
renunciations appeared to be identical copies of a text drawn up by White House
Whether going to Puerto Rico or Chicago, all 11 would be required
to report to a
parole officer within 72 hours of release. Other rules imposed on the parolees
require them to get prior approval from their parole officer if they intend to have
contact with a known felon.
On Wednesday, the 11 were in federal facilities in California,
Indiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Kansas and Texas.
Freedom in five years
While two other Puerto Rican nationalists rejected the president's
offer, a 12th
prisoner accepted a deal that would free him in five years. Juan Enrique Segarra
Palmer, 49, is now held in a federal penitentiary near Orlando on a 55-year
sentence in connection with a $7.1 million Wells Fargo robbery in 1983 to fund
the separatist Machetero group.
The commutations -- Clinton's first since Christmas -- roiled
the national political
scene over the weekend. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who may seek a Senate seat in
Puerto Rican-rich New York, called on her husband, the President, to withdraw
his offer because the prisoners had been slow to sign a White House text on
renouncing violence in exchange for early freedom.
Advocates of early release argued that, because none of the prisoners
personally committed violence, their 35- to 90-year sentences were especially
Copyright 1999 Miami Herald