- Created: Monday, 29 May 2017 12:57
- Written by Nicki Jameson
Puerto Rican freedom fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera has now officially been freed after more than three and a half decades behind bars in the United States prison system. In January 2017 Oscar was one of the 539 prisoners granted clemency by outgoing US President Obama and in February he was released from high security Terre Haute prison in Indiana and flown to Puerto Rico, where he then remained under house arrest for three months until he was finally able to walk free on 17 May.
In the 1970s Oscar was an active member of the Armed Forces for National Liberation, a communist organisation which fought for the independence of Puerto Rico from US occupation. Having been captured, in 1981 he went on trial for a range of offences, including ‘seditious conspiracy’, armed robbery and bomb-making. He did not deny any of the specific charges but instead declared himself a prisoner of war, demanding immunity from prosecution under the Geneva Convention and refusing to participate in most of the court proceedings, although he did address the court to close his own case, stating proudly: ‘Puerto Rico will be a free and socialist country.’
Oscar was sentenced to 55 years’ imprisonment, which was increased to 70 years in 1988 after an attempted escape from Leavenworth prison. Twelve of those years were spent in solitary confinement.
Following his release from those years of solitary, Oscar was moved to Terre Haute, where for five years he was held with Fernando Gonzalez of the Cuban Five, who was released in December 2014 and who has written in the pamphlet ‘It’s the poor who face the savagery of the US “justice” system’*:
‘Oscar and Carlos Alberto [Torres – a comrade of Oscar’s, who was released in 2010] are conscious revolutionaries who were sentenced to prison for political reasons. When I got to prison, each had already been there a long time and I benefitted from their experience. They became my compañeros and brothers. I consider myself privileged to have known them.’
* See ‘Cuban Five speak about US prisons’ in Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 256