Clinton To Release Terrorists...Hillary to Gain from Move.
CIA Chief Tenet Remains Mum.
The New York Times - August 12, 1999
Clinton to Commute Radicals' Sentences
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
WASHINGTON -- Under continued pressure from minority
politicians and human rights activists, President Clinton Wednesday
agreed to commute the sentences of 16 members of a Puerto Rican
nationalist group that was involved in more than 100 bombings of
political and military installations in the United States at least 15
Most of the 16 were convicted of crimes like seditious
conspiracy, possession of an unregistered firearm or interstate
transportation of a stolen vehicle. Yet some were sentenced to more than
50 years in jail, a length of time that the president viewed as
excessive,administration officials said.
Most have already served at least 19 years. One was sentenced to
90 years and has served nearly 25 years and the others have served at
least 14 years.
"The president feels they deserved to serve serious sentences
for these crimes but not sentences that were far out of proportion to
the nature of the crimes they were convicted for," Barry Toiv, a White
House spokesman, said Wednesday night.
The president imposed conditions on the commutations, requiring
each person to renounce the use of violence and agree to comply with
normal parole requirements. Eleven would be released from prison
immediately, two would have to serve additional time, and three would
have their fines waived.
One of their friends is not being offered clemency because of the
seriousness of the crimes of which he was convicted and his continued
advocacy of violence.
The nationalist group, known as the FALN, which are the Spanish
initials for Armed Forces of National Liberation, was dedicated to the
independence of Puerto Rico.
Between 1974 and 1983, law enforcement officials attributed at
least 130 bombings to the FALN and branded it a terrorist organization.
It killed six people and wounded scores more, but those whose sentences
the president wants to commute were not directly involved in the deaths
and injuries, officials said.
It was other Puerto Rican nationalists who were convicted of
storming the United States House of Representatives in 1954 and
wounding five lawmakers. Former President Jimmy Carter pardoned four of
those nationalists in 1977 and 1979. He also pardoned a fifth who had
been convicted of plotting to kill President Truman in 1950.
Carter was among human rights leaders who urged Clinton to
release these 16. Other leaders calling for their release included
retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Coretta Scott King,
Cardinal John O'Connor of the Archidocese of New York, the Right Rev.
Paul Moore Jr., the retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York,
and several Democratic lawmakers from New York, including Reps. Jose E.
Serrano, Charles B. Rangel, Nydia M. Velazquez and Eliot L. Engel.
White House officials said that Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has
all but declared her candidacy for the Senate from New York, had nothing
to do with the commutation, which had been in the works long before she
indicated her interest in the election. However, the decision could
accrue to her political benefit by cementing her relationship with New
York's large Puerto Rican community.
On the other hand, some law enforcement officials have said
that the nationalists should have been given stiffer sentences, and the
commutations could hurt Mrs. Clinton among the law-and-order advocates
who support her likely Republican opponent, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of
New York City.
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