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FBI on fishy fishing expedition

Juan González, New York Daily News
(Click here to read the original article)

Wednesday, January 9th 2008, 4:00 AM

A few days before Christmas, two men walked into Julio Pabon’s sports memorabilia store on E.149th St. in the South Bronx.

One of them identified himself as an FBI agent; the other was from the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the NYPD.

“We’re looking for Julio Pabon,”one said.

“Which one, father or son?” replied the store’s employee.

They wanted to ask the younger Pabon some questions, the men said before leaving a business card.

A few days later, Julio Antonio Pabon, a 27-year-old budding filmmaker and graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut, called the phone number on the card and arranged a meeting. He was accompanied by his mother.

This time there was one detective and two FBI agents, including one from San Juan. They showed the young man 20 photos of Hispanic-looking individuals and asked if he knew any of them.

Pabon told them he recognized only one, a poet named Hector Rivera. Years ago, when Pabon was president of the Latino club at Wesleyan, he asked Pedro Pietri, the celebrated New York poet who has since died, to arrange a performance for the students. Pietri sent Rivera and a group called Welfare Poets up to the school. That was the first and last time Pabon met Rivera.

The agents immediately handed the young man a subpoena to appear in federal court on Jan. 11.

He is one of at least three young Puerto Ricans in this city who have been subpoenaed to appear Friday before a Brooklyn federal grand jury investigating local links to the Macheteros, the three-decade-old violent Puerto Rican independence group.

Sure, more than 30 years ago, Pabon the father was a well-known Bronx community organizer and fervent advocate of Puerto Rican independence, but he never advocated terrorism.

For the past few decades, he has been a respected businessman and promoter of Latino sports events and is known by virtually everyone of influence in the Bronx.

“I’ve known Julito the son since he was born,” said Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx). “What could he and these other young people possibly know that helps the FBI?”

In addition to the young Pabon, Tania Frontera, a graphic designer, and Christopher Torres, a social worker, have been subpoenaed.

Frontera and Torres were active several years ago in the successful movement to end the Navy’s use of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques as a bombing range, acquaintances say. Protests over the grand jury investigation are expected Friday here and in Puerto Rico.

Serrano fears the federal government is once again using grand juries and law enforcement surveillance to intimidate Puerto Ricans engaged in legitimate dissent.

Back in 2000, at the congressman’s request, former FBI Director Louis Freeh declassified and released thousands of internal agency documents about the FBI’s activities in Puerto Rico.

Those documents revealed a massive campaign by the agency to disrupt and persecute independence groups from the 1930s to the late 1970s. The surveillance even targeted longtime governor of Puerto Rico Luis Muñoz Marin.

Spokesmen for the FBI and the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office refused to confirm or deny any new grand jury investigation.

La Prensa have claimed for weeks that the grand jury is part of a new probe of the Macheteros, the underground Puerto Rican group best known for a $7 million Wells Fargo robbery in West Hartford, Conn., in 1983.

In September 2005, the legendary founder of the group, Filiberto Ojeda Rios, was killed in a shootout with the FBI on a small farm in the hills of Puerto Rico.

His death sparked a huge controversy on the island because Ojeda Rios, who was gravely injured in the shootout, bled to death when agents waited until the next morning to rush his farmhouse.

Puerto Rico’s Justice Department has tried ever since to obtain FBI records of the incident and the identities of the agents involved, but has been rebuffed and is suing the agency in federal court.

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