by Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF
Oscar López Rivera is a political prisoner who at 74 years of age has served 34 years in American prisons, 12 of them in consecutive solitary confinement, because of his ideas. Sentenced to 55 years for seditious conspiracy in 1981 and an additional 15 years for conspiracy to escape in 1987, López Rivera has never been convicted of a violent act.
His only idea, overarching as it is, is the independence of Puerto Rico. His continued incarceration today, as the nation ponders the ills of disproportionate criminal sentencing, can only be justified by gross punishment and retribution.
Why else keep a 74 year old man whose release is supported by Nobel Peace Prize recipients Desmond Tutu, Rigoberta Menchu and Mairead Maguire, among thousands of others, behind bars for this long? Punishment – that enduring characteristic of American exceptionalism, plain and simple — is the only justification.
For our sake, President Barack Obama, please release him. Now.