BY VERÓNICA POSES
CHICAGO - The campaign to free Puerto Rican political prisoners scored a victory August 6 when the Bureau of Prisons transferred Oscar López Rivera from solitary confinement in the federal prison in Marion, Illinois, to the U.S. penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. He is now in the general prison population.
López is one of 15 Puerto Rican independence fighters being held in U.S. jails. He is in the same prison with Ricardo Jiménez, another Puerto Rican political prisoner.
The U.S. government claims López is a central leader of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN) and he has been singled out for particularly heinous treatment.
He was first jailed in 1981 and sentenced to 55 years in prison for "seditious conspiracy." Later in 1988 he was framed for "conspiracy to escape" and 15 more years were added to his sentence.
The only evidence in the trial was testimony from another prisoner. López spent the last 12 years in solitary confinement. For nearly three of those years he was locked up in a Florence, Colorado, maximum security prison.
For most of this time, he was kept locked in a bathroom- sized cell in complete isolation for 22 hours a day. He has been subjected to sleep deprivation, intrusive body searches, and a nearly complete lack of outdoor recreation.
He was not allowed direct contact visits and could only talk to his visitors through Plexiglass and a telephone. He could only leave his cell in handcuffs.
Other fighters who have been jailed at Marion include American Indian Movement leader Leonard Peltier and Puerto Rican Nationalist Rafael Cancel Miranda.
"This is a tremendous victory" said Marcos Vilar, coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Puerto Rican Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War, one of the main organizations involved in the campaign to free the 15 fighters for Puerto Rican independence. "We've been on a campaign for almost two years to get him out of Marion."
Last year activists from Chicago and other cities picketed the facility. Thousands of people around the world have sent letters demanding López's transfer.
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