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Republicans Pressure White House to Withdraw Clemency Offer to Puerto Rican Activists

September 03, 1999
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Congressional Republicans this week stepped up pressure on the Clinton administration to withdraw the clemency offer it made last month to several Puerto Rican political prisoners and activists, subpoenaing White House and Justice Department records and raising the likelihood of Congressional hearings on the matter in the fall.

Spearheading the effort is Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana), who heads the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, and who also subpoenaed Attorney General Janet Reno and White House Counsel Cheryl Mills.

Clinton has offered conditional clemency to some members of the Puerto Rican independence group, the Armed Forces of National Liberation–known as FALN for its initials in Spanish–if they agree to renounce violence, refrain from meeting with other independence leaders and obey stringent guidelines barring them from using weapons.

Under the proposal, 11 of the 16 activists would be eligible immediately for release, two would have to serve more time before they could be freed, and three who have already been released from prison would have fines against them reduced. The activists, who were never connected to an act of murder or violence and who have already served 14 to 19 years in prison, are still reviewing the proposal.

Since the offer was made, Newsweek quoted an anonymous source as saying that prison officials had recorded conversations between some of the prisoners in which they would embrace violence once they are released. The prisoners have denied the allegations, and the story has also been denied by all federal law enforcement agencies, which themselves are opposed to the proposed clemency.

Meanwhile, thousands of Puerto Ricans marched last weekend in San Juan demanding that the prisoners be released.

Guest:

  • Michael Deutsch, Attorney in Chicago who represents several of the prisoners.

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