“This is an example of the banality of evil.”
This week marks the 32nd anniversary of the arrest of Lopez Rivera, who is currently serving a de facto life sentence for seditious conspiracy.
Lopez Rivera belonged to the Armed Forces of National Liberation of Puerto Rico, or FALN (the group's Spanish acronym). The FALN set off several bombs in the United States in the 1970s.
But Lopez Rivera was never convicted of involvement in those acts. Instead, he was convicted of a thought crime: wanting to overthrow the U.S. government.
The conditions of his incarceration have been inhumane by any definition of the word. He spent 12 years in solitary confinement, during which he was not allowed to meet with his family. When his mother died, the authorities did not allow him to attend her funeral.
Lopez Rivera is now 70 years old and has spent almost half his life in prison. He is not scheduled to have another parole hearing until 14 years from now.
Most of the men and women captured along with Lopez Rivera on May 29, 1981, were released by the Clinton administration in 1999. President Clinton said their sentences were "out of proportion" and noted that they "were not convicted of crimes involving the killing or maiming of any individuals." But Lopez Rivera refused the conditions of his release because not all of the convicted FALN members were offered a clemency deal, and he did not want to be a free man while a single one of his companions remained in prison.
But in 2010 the last remaining fellow FALN prisoner was released, so Lopez Rivera is now the only one in prison.
Puerto Rican civil society organizations, along with leaders of all political parties on the island, are calling on President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to release Oscar Lopez Rivera. His continued confinement serves no purpose.
It was out of proportion to keep incarcerating him 14 years ago. Today, it is simply a disgrace.
Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero is a Puerto Rican author, journalist and environmental educator. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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