August 23, 1999

New York's top cop opposed to clemency for Puerto Rican nationalists

                  NEW YORK (CNN) -- New York City Police Commissioner Howard
                  Safir said Monday he is "vehemently opposed" to President Clinton's recent
                  offer of clemency to 16 Puerto Rican nationalists affiliated with the FALN.

                  The FALN, a Spanish acronym for the Armed Forces of National
                  Liberation, advocates the total independence of Puerto Rico from the
                  United States.

                  The group has been linked to six deaths and more than 130 bombings
                  and 70 other acts of violence during the mid-1970s until 1983.

                  The 16 prisoners were convicted on charges of conspiracy and weapons
                  possession and are serving up to 105 years in prison.

                  None of the 16 was accused of involvement in the deaths. Thirteen did
                  not participate in their trial, saying they didn't recognize U.S. legal jurisdiction over them.

                  At a press conference Monday, Safir, joined by other police officers,
                  referred to the prisoners as terrorists, saying they should serve out their full

                  Clinton offered clemency to the nationalists on the condition that they sign a
                  statement renouncing violence. The prisoners are eligible for immediate
                  release if they sign the agreement.

                  However, all have refused to sign thus far, asking instead for an
                  unconditional offer of release.

                  FALN victim says Clinton is 'pandering'

                  Thomas Scotto, president of the New York City's Detective Endowment
                  Association, said that Clinton has been "a tremendous friend of the police
                  community" but that he has been ill-advised in the matter.

                  A former detective, Rich Pastorella, said he believes the president's motives
                  are political and that he is "really truly pandering to the Hispanic community,
                  the Latino community for their vote when Mrs. Clinton runs for the vacated
                  [Senate] seat of Patrick Moynihan in New York state."

                  Pastorella was blinded and lost five fingers as a result of a bomb set by the
                  FALN in lower Manhattan in 1982.

                  Safir said New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani shares his feelings. The
                  police commissioner said Giuliani was not present at the news conference
                  because he didn't want to "politicize" the issue.

                  When the clemency offer was announced, the White House said Clinton was
                  acting on the recommendation of Charles Ruff, the chief counsel who left his
                  post earlier this month.