Demonstrations were held in several U.S. and Puerto Rican cities January 11 to protest subpoenas issued to three independence supportersTania Frontera, Julio Pabón, and Christopher Torresto appear that day before a federal grand jury in New York. In an initial victory, the court postponed the hearing to February 1. Independence activists say the grand jury probe is part of an harassment campaign Washington is carrying out under the guise of searching for members of the underground pro-independence group Macheteros.
Macheteros leader Filiberto Ojeda was killed by FBI agents on the island in September 2005. In February 2006 heavily armed FBI agents raided the homes of independence supporters across Puerto Rico, supposedly looking for connections to the Macheteros. The U.S. government failed to pin charges on anyone.
The use of grand juries to victimize the Puerto Rican independence movement has a long history. In 1936 a U.S. grand jury framed up Pedro Albizu Campos and other Puerto Rican Nationalist Party leaders on charges of seditious conspiracy. In the 1970s and 80s, several independentistas in Chicago and New York were jailed for refusing to testify before grand juries.
U.S. authorities have used the extraordinary powers of grand juries to conduct fishing expeditions and lock up political activists. Grand jury deliberations are secret. The jury can force witnesses to testify, and individuals are often denied the basic democratic right to be represented by an attorney at the interrogation. Those questioned have been asked to give the government names of other political activists. When they refuse, many have been jailed for contempt of court.
The current case is an affront to political rights. Cops from the FBI/New York Police Department Joint Terrorist Task Force showed Julio Pabón photos of several people, asked him to identify them, and then issued him a subpoena to appear before a grand jury.
Working people in the United States have a stake in opposing these government attacks on political rights. Like the expansion of FBI wiretapping and spying, they are intended to intimidate and victimize opponents of U.S. government policies. They will continue to be used against union militants and other working-class fighters. That's why a quick response, like the January 11 demonstrations, is so important.
N.Y. rally protests grand jury probe of Puerto Rico independence backers
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