López was convicted of seditious conspiracy and accused of being a leader of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), which called for independence for Puerto Rico, still a U.S colony.
In the early 1970s López was well-known in the Puerto Rican community in Chicago. He was a founder of Rafael Cancel Miranda High School and participated in launching the Committee to Free the Five Puerto Rican Nationalists.
The U.S. government said the FALN was responsible for a series of bombings beginning in 1974. López, like 11 other independence supporters arrested in 1980, refused to recognize the authority of the U.S. courts and was sentenced to 55 years in prison.
In 1987 López and three others were convicted on frame-up charges of conspiracy to escape from prison. Fifteen more years were tacked on to his sentence.
From 1986 to 1998, López was kept in solitary confinement under what attorney Jan Susler described as conditions not unlike those at Guantánamo under which enemy combatants are held.
An international campaign won his transfer to the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, and release into the general prison population in 1998. López has created a large number of paintings and drawings, especially around political themes.
In 1999, in the face of growing protests against U.S. colonial domination of Puerto Rico, U.S. president William Clinton pardoned 11 of 17 Puerto Rican political prisoners held at the time.
López refused to accept the commutation offer, because it required him to serve 10 more years before being released and did not include all the Puerto Rican political prisoners. The release on parole in July of political prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres, arrested in 1980, has spurred demands to free López.
The campaign to free López is seeking to get more than 10,000 signatures on a petition and letters to President Barack Obama calling for his immediate release. Information on the campaign is available at boricuahumanrights.org and ProlibertadWeb.com. Letters can be sent to: Oscar López Rivera, #87651-024, FCI Terre Haute, PO Box 33, Terre Haute, IN 47808.
Puerto Rican political prisoner Avelino González Claudio, arrested in February 2008, was recently transferred to prison in Texas. Letters can be sent to: Avelino González Claudio #09873-000, FCI Bastrop, PO Box 1010, Bastrop, TX 78602.
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