by Jack and Felice Cohen-Joppa, editors
POLITICAL PRISONERS UPDATE
While space on these pages will not permit regular updates on political prisoners from beyond the ranks of the anti-nuclear and anti-war prisoners noted under Inside & Out, some recent developments deserve note here.
As reported in the last issue, Sylvia Baraldini was indeed returned to her native Italy this summer. A photo of cheering throngs greeting her when she returned was a pleasant surprise to see in our local newspaper.
The presidential clemency offer and subsequent release of eleven Puerto Rican political prisoners raised a tempest not yet stilled in Washington, D.C. The conditions for their release were punitive and more severe than the U.S. asks of other governments around the world. Attorneys say they will protest any enforcement action against constitutionally protected activity, and legitimate social or family contacts (two of the freed Puerto Ricans are sisters!). Given the experience of Michele Naar-Obed (see page 1), they may soon have a chance. For more information, contact the National Committee to Free Puerto Rican Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War, 2607 West Division, Chicago, IL 60622, (773)278-0885, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the Puerto Rican men, Luis Rosa, was interviewed by the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee after his release from Leavenworth Federal Prison, where he was held with Peltier. Here are a few excerpts from that interview, reprinted with permission: Luis Rosa: "The conditions... for years we had said we would not accept. We knew what the political motives were behind them. These conditions attempted to strip our voice for the liberation of Puerto Rico - the conditions said that we could not associate with each other or partake in the political process in violation of our civil rights. This is what we had a problem with... renouncing violence was no problem. We issued a statement in 1997 where we did renounce violence and we were self critical about any harm or injuries that our movement had ever caused to anyone. To make our decision, we had to enter into a discussion through conference calls and I looked to my elders, Leonard Peltier and Jaan Laaman, and Ernie Santiago, Fernando Torres... I was really against accepting the conditions right up until the last minute, but the unified position of the prisoners was that we come out... [We had] decided that everyone would either sign or everyone would stay. We took our time to make a decision - and we had the blessings of those who did not want to sign to go ahead and do so...
"When we made this decision we were especially thinking about the other prisoners, especially Leonard Peltier. Even if we come out with these conditions, people will see us, we will adhere to the conditions, we will show that we can reintegrate into the political arena with no reprisals. We knew the negative campaign would be there. It surpassed the viciousness we expected. We can turn it around with our conduct though, and open doors for others. We can prove them wrong."