Puerto Rico militant freed from custody after 36 years

Puerto Rico's controversial Oscar Lopez Rivera in Chicago on Thursday

Puerto Rico's controversial Oscar Lopez Rivera in Chicago on Thursday

Oscar Lopez Rivera, who for decades has been in prison for his role in a Puerto Rican nationalist group connected to terrorist attacks in US cities, will be released on Wednesday.

FALN claimed responsibility for more than 100 bombings in the Big Apple and other cities in the 1970s and early 1980s, including the deadly explosion at Fraunces Tavern that killed four people and injured 60 others. But those who lost loved ones hold him responsible.

In early February, Lopez Rivera was transferred from the Terre Haute penitentiary in IN, where the leading activist spent about two-thirds of his more than 30-year prison term, to his daughter's home in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera is being released Wednesday from house arrest after decades behind bars in a case that has made him a martyr for his supporters but outrages those who lost loved ones in.

Newly freed Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera says independence militants didn't hate Americans but sought justice and full sovereignty for Puerto Rico.

President Barack Obama commuted his sentence in January, the same day a commutation was announced for Chelsea Manning, who was also freed Wednesday after serving time for leaking military secrets.

In an interview with the Puerto Rican daily El Nuevo Dia, Lopez Rivera said: "I want to enjoy Puerto Rico, my family". The island's 3.5 million residents are United States citizens and can serve in the military.

"This guy was convicted of leading the FALN that murdered people", said Joseph Connor, whose father, Frank, was killed in the Fraunces Tavern attack. "My brother was charged with the same charge as Nelson Mandela", his brother Jose Lopez, who is also executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, told Chicagoist.

After Obama's order, Lopez Rivera was released from prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, and arrived in Puerto Rico to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest.

Lopez Rivera returned from the Vietnam War and was a driving force for Puerto Rican activism in Chicago, following the Division Street riots of June, 1966, which served as a flashpoint for the movement.

He and about a dozen comrades were convicted in 1981 of seditious conspiracy "to overthrow the government of the United States in Puerto Rico by force", armed robbery and lesser charges.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has spoken on the phone with newly freed Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera. He stayed with his daughter at her apartment in San Juan's Santurce district. The option garnered less than six per cent of the vote in four referendums that Puerto Rico has held on its political status.

In 1999, US President Bill Clinton offered Lopez clemency, but he rejected the offer because it excluded two associates who have since been released. Sixty-one percent who answered a second question said they favored statehood, but almost 500,000 left that question blank, leading many to question the results.

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