Oscar Lopez Rivera was convicted of trying to overthrow the government, and was a leader of the FALN terrorist group which bombed public buildings and murdered innocent people.
President Obama’s decision to commute Lopez Rivera’s 70-year sentence has sparked outrage from terror victims families.
“I’m disgusted by what the president did. It’s a travesty,” said Joe Connor, whose father was killed in an infamous FALN terrorist bombing in Manhattan.
“The enemies of our country are being rewarded, and being treated as if they are heroes. What we hear is that Oscar Lopez Rivera did not get to know his family. Well, neither did my father. The victims and the Americans get pushed aside.”
Rivera is serving a 55-year federal prison sentence for being a leader of the Puerto Rican terrorist group, which sought independence for the U.S. island territory. FALN claimed responsibility for over 70 bombings in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Chicago from 1974 to 1983. The attacks killed five people and wounded dozens more, including police officers.
In 1981, Lopez Rivera was convicted of seditious conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government and arms trafficking. He was later sentenced to serve 15 more years behind bars for trying to escape twice, and never renounced his radical cause.
In 1999, on the eve of Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate run in New York, President Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of 16 imprisoned FALN members. But Lopez Rivera reportedly turned the offer down, refusing to be released unless all of his comrades were released from prison. Now, 18 years later, he will be walking out of the Indiana federal prison a free man after his sentence was reduced by 34 years.
“I went to his parole hearing in 2011,” said Connor. “We were looking for some sort of reconciliation, some sort of admission, some sort of atonement. We didn’t get any of that. He is a sworn terrorist, and for the president to release a sworn terrorist for political reasons, or whatever reason, is a disgrace.”
Joe was only 9 years old when his father Frank went to have lunch at the historic Fraunces Tavern, near Wall Street, on Jan. 24, 1975. The colonial landmark is where President George Washington bid farewell to his troops on Dec. 4, 1783. That is why the symbol of the nation was targeted.
As Frank had lunch, a bomb suddenly exploded, killing him and three others. More than 60 people were injured. Frank Connor was 33 years old, and since then his son has taken up the crusade to speak out against terrorism and freedom for the killers. He says Lopez Rivera never admitted or accepted responsibility for his acts, never expressed any remorse, and that therefore the president’s decision sends a horrible message of encouragement to terrorists who now know that at some point their terrorism will be forgiven irrespective of their expressing contrition for their actions.
Lopez’s supporters have described him as a “freedom fighter” and not as a terrorist. Several members of Congress supported granting clemency to Lopez, as well as Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and 100,000 people who signed a petition for his release.
However Connor is unmoved, stating that “There are no political prisoners, the United States does not hold political prisoners, these were terrorists.”
Lopez Rivera will walk out of prison a free man on May 17, and President Trump, by U.S. law, will not be able to reverse the decision.