White House Pushed Department On Clemency
Reuters Report - October 21, 1999
NEW YORK - The Justice Department took
extraordinary steps to enhance the chances of clemency for
imprisoned Puerto Rican nationalists after receiving regular
expressions of interest from the White House, the New York Times
Top department officials repeatedly urged the prisoners'
supporters in Congress to persuade the nationalists to write a
statement of repentance to help their chances of being released,
the Times said, citing documents released at a Senate Judiciary
Committee hearing Wednesday.
The documents show that the Puerto Rican nationalists did
not apply for clemency personally, as usually required, but
Justice Department officials processed a request anyway, the
The fact that the prisoners failed to apply for clemency
themselves suggests that they had not abandoned their position
of rejecting the authority of the U.S. government, the Times
President Clinton offered clemency to 16 Puerto Rican
nationalists on Aug. 11. The prisoners were convicted of crimes
committed more than 20 years ago on behalf of the FALN, a
militant Puerto Rican independence organization.
Some critics of Clinton said they believed the clemency
offer might have been made to support the first lady's bid for a
U.S. Senate seat from New York, which has a large community of
Puerto Rican descent.
Hillary Rodham Clinton first supported the clemency offer,
then said she believed it should be withdrawn because the
imprisoned activists had not quickly embraced the offer, which
required them to renounce violence.
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