(Above, L-R: Oscar López Rivera with atty. Jan Susler; Portrait of Chelsea Manning by Alicia Neal.)
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) is thrilled to learn of the commutations of the sentences of Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera and Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, a victory due largely to the unwavering efforts of determined activists, organizers and family members. The NLG has long advocated for their release, as well as political prisoners Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Veronza Bowers, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, and others targeted and incarcerated for their political activity. While we were disappointed in the latter’s absence from President Obama’s commutation list, the NLG calls on him to exercise his power to pardon all political prisoners during these final days in office.
“While Chelsea’s freedom is long-overdue, we are gratified that she has been afforded some measure of delayed justice. There is no doubt that the tremendous outpouring of public support and organizing for commuting the sentence contributed to this outcome. Still, we remain critical of a government that seems more intent on prosecuting those who expose war crimes than those who commit them,” said Kathleen Gilberd, Executive Director of the Military Law Task Force of the NLG.
“The release of Oscar López Rivera after 35 years of unjust imprisonment represents a tremendous achievement for the people of Puerto Rico and those across the world who supported the campaign to release this freedom fighter. As the longest held Puerto Rican political prisoner, Oscar will now be able to join his family and community in his beloved homeland,” said López Rivera’s attorney and Guild member Jan Susler.
“The NLG has long supported Oscar’s release, as well as those of all Puerto Rican political prisoners and those who have been persecuted, tortured and killed for believing in, and fighting for, the independence of Puerto Rico. Today, there is an indescribable joy knowing that Oscar will soon be home, and that his freedom was secured by the persistence of the Puerto Rican nation who refused to let this injustice continue,” added NLG President Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan.