Longtime activist Marilyn Jean Buck passes
Puerto Rican Activist Lolita Lebron Remembered
Attorney and radio host Jim Lafferty Anti-War Conference Debrief
Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Released Today After 30 Years
Last week Puerto Rican community activist Carlos Alberto Torres was released from a federal prison in Pekin, IL after serving 30 years as a political prisoner. Torres was convicted of seditious conspiracy – conspiring to use force against the lawful authority of the United States over Puerto Rico. Torres was punished for being a member of an armed clandestine organization called the FALN – Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (English: Armed Forces of National Liberation) which had claimed responsibility for bombings in Chicago that resulted in no deaths. He wasn’t accused of the bombings, only of being a member of FALN.
In 1898 Puerto Rico was ceded to the US by Spain as war bounty in the treaty that ended the Spanish-American War. The US has occupied it since. Torres was sentenced to 78 years in prison but used international law in his defense. Torres argued that the courts of the colonizing country may not criminalize captured anti-colonial combatants, but must turn them over to an impartial international tribunal to have their status adjudicated.
There was an outpouring of support to free Carlos. His attorney, National Lawyers Guild member Jan Susler of Chicago, notes, “Carlos is being released from prison due to the unflagging support of the Puerto Rican independence movement and others who work for human rights. The more than 10,000 letters of support from the U.S., Puerto Rico, Mexico and other countries sent a strong message to the Parole Commission.”
- Carlos got a disproportionate sentence, a punishment for who he was politically. He did 30 years, standing tall and maintaining his political integrity.
- People stop him on the street, and embrace him.
- The bombing in which he was accused of was only property damage. If he had killed or injured someone and convicted as a social prisoner, he would gotten a less sentence and served far less time.
- He was always treated more harshly than the other prisoners.
- Right after 9/11, the US rounded up political prisoners and put them in the hole for months.
- You’re always watched, you’re always monitored. Every prisoner has access to email; Carlos did not.
- The reception that I’ve had here in Puerto Rico, has been…there’s no way to describe it.
- I never imagined that it would be so loving, so fantastic, so supportive.
- The only cloud is that we still have 2 Puerto Rican prisoners in jail, Oscar Lopez Rivera and Avelino González Claudio
- We landed in Puerto Rico and we were met by a mob of friends and family.
- I was paroled by the US parole commission. I was given conditions and I accepted those conditions.
- Lolita Lebron: we don’t have enough time to describe in words what that woman demonstrated and gave as an example throughout her whole life to us.
- During the wake and funeral, a lot of people referred to Lolita Lebron as “the Mother of our Homeland.”
- I helped carry her coffin.
- My immediate plans are to develop a pottery studio
Guest – Attorney Jan Susler joined People’s Law Office in 1982 after a six-year stint as Clinical Law Professor at Prison Legal Aid, the legal clinic at Southern Illinois University’s School of Law. Her long history of work on behalf of political prisoners and prisoners’ rights includes litigation, advocacy and educational work around USP Marion and the Women’s High Security Unit at Lexington, KY. Her practice at PLO focuses on police misconduct civil rights litigation, which has lately included wrongful conviction litigation on behalf of people exonerated after serving many years in prison. Her work with the Puerto Rican independence movement and with progressive movements challenging U.S. foreign and domestic policies has been a constant throughout her 30 years as a lawyer.
Guest – Carlos Alberto Torres, member of Puerto Rico’s independence movement and the longest-serving Puerto Rican political prisoner. He was convicted and sentenced to 78 years in a U.S. federal prison for seditious conspiracy – conspiring to use force against the lawful authority of the United States over Puerto Rico. He served 30 years, being released on July 26, 2010.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the ACLU have filed a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s authority to use the military and the CIA to kill the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. He’s an American citizen, accused of terrorism, but hasn’t received a trial. He is believed to be hiding in Yemen. Because it would be against the law to challenge the government’s attempt to kill al-Awlaki, the lawsuit was filed against the Treasury department, challenging a regulation that would require the Center and the ACLU to obtain its permission in order to provide uncompensated legal services for Mr al-Awlaki.
Vince Warren, the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, argued that international law did not permit a government to kill people far from combat zones, and in the case of a US citizen, Vince said that such a policy also violates the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment — and is a dangerous precedent.
- The case that we filed last week was a challenge to a regulatory scheme under the Department of Treasury and OFAC which prohibits transactions with anyone designated as a terrorist by the government. That includes pro-bono legal services.
- Al-Awlaki is the subject of an assassination order by the president, ordering and authorizing the CIA and Special Forces to target and kill him.
- OFAC powers go back to the 1970s IEEPA, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
- All we have against this guy are allegations.
- The CIA, which is one of the agencies that carries out these killings, has primarily used drones. We think that drones would be the primary way that this killing would be carried out.
Guest – CCR staff attorney Pardiss Kebriaei joined the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in July 2007. She provides direct representation to several of CCR’s clients at Guantánamo and helps coordinate CCR’s network of hundreds of pro bono counsel representing other prisoners. She also focuses on using international human rights mechanisms to bring international pressure to bear on the U.S. government and hold other governments accountable for their role in the violations at Guantánamo.
Legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) were arrested last week during mass demonstrations of protesters who opposed Federal Law 287G, Arizona Law SB 1070. What happened? CCR Legal Director Bill Quigley told the media, Arizona is starting to act like Mississippi in the Civil Rights days. Among those arrested were National Lawyers Guild officer Roxana Orrell and CCR staff attorney Sunita Patel.
- It was my first time in Maricopa County. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is known for enforcing the most horrible incarnation of 287G and ICE/police collaboration.
- 287G is the statute by which this program is authorized by Congress. He also has what’s called a Secure Communities program which allows for the identification of anyone who is a non-citizen through a fingerprinting system. 287G allows for local agencies to implement immigration law through a Memorandum of Understanding with the federal government.
- At the same time he implements what’s called “crime suppression sweeps,” where he takes his units and regular citizens to sweep through neighborhoods.
- I spent the night in jail. I hadn’t planned on it. It was really an honor to be in solidarity with the rest of the protesters. I was charged with obstruction of a highway and public thoroughfare and failure to obey a police officer. People in Arizona call it a war zone when it comes to immigration enforcement.
- Arizona has also become the site for a spark of incredible activism and the growth of an incredible human rights movement.
Guest – CCR Staff Attorney Sunita Patel works on racial profiling, immigrant rights and other human rights litigation. Prior to her position at CCR, she held a Soros Justice Fellowship at the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit in New York where she represented immigrant detainees in removal proceedings and worked with criminal justice and human rights groups to create independent community oversight for detention operations through public accountability boards. Sunita is a former law clerk for the Honorable Judge Ivan L. R. Lemelle in the Eastern District of Louisiana.