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  HOME | Caribbean

Puerto Rican Independence Militant Freed after More Than 30 Years in Custody

SAN JUAN – A Puerto Rican independence militant who spent more than 30 years behind bars in the United States was released from house arrest on Wednesday.

The 74-year-old Oscar Lopez went to a federal courthouse in San Juan to have an electronic bracelet removed and sign the documents pertaining to his release from custody.

The then-US president, Barack Obama, in January commuted Lopez’s decades-long prison term for crimes including seditious conspiracy.

Lopez spent more than 30 years in prison, most of that time at a penitentiary in Indiana, but in early February he was allowed to return to Puerto Rico, a US commonwealth, and serve out the rest of his commuted sentence under house arrest.

Sources close to the family told EFE that after his stopover at the courthouse they would take Lopez to see the ocean.

Lopez, a leader of the Puerto Rican militant nationalist organization Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), was sentenced in 1981 to 55 years in federal prison for crimes including seditious conspiracy, interference with interstate commerce by threats or violence and carrying firearms during the commission of violent crimes.

In 1988 he was handed another 15 years in prison for trying to escape from prison.

He was never convicted of any of the roughly 120 bombings attributed to the FALN, including one at Fraunces Tavern in New York in 1975 that killed four people and injured dozens of others.

Lopez served as an American soldier in Vietnam but later came to resent the US, accusing it of treating Puerto Rico like a colony.

University of Puerto Rico students who have been on strike to protest cuts imposed by a board set up to oversee the debt-ridden US commonwealth’s finances chanted “Oscar’s free!” as he left his home.

In statements to reporters at his daughter’s residence, Lopez urged the students to continue their struggle and “do everything possible to protect it.”

 

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