Ida Luz Rodriguez Puerto Rican member of the FALN who received a sentence of 75 years for seditious conspiracy and other charges. She was sentenced on February 18, 1981, and incarcerated in a U.S. federal prison. However, she was released early from prison, after President Bill Clinton extended a clemency offer to her on September 7, 1999.
Ida Luz was born in Puerto Rico in 1950. She studied at the University of Illinois at Chicago, majoring in psychology and sociology. She participated in community struggles for jobs, housing, and education, and worked at a hospital in the Puerto Rican community that blatantly discriminated against the very community it served. She worked at the Puerto Rican High School and with the Committee to Free the Five Nationalists. She had a son named Damian.
Ida was arrested in 1980 and sentenced to 83 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and related charges. Her sister is Alicia Rodríguez. In prison Ida Luz finished her bachelor's degree and continued studying psychology, health and environmental questions. Had Clinton not offered clemency, her release date was scheduled for 2014.
Rodriguez and 11 others were arrested on April 4, 1980, in Evanston, Illinois. They had been linked to more than 100 bombings or attempted bombings since 1974 in their attempt to achieve independence for Puerto Rico. At their trial proceedings, all of the arrested declared their status as prisoners of war, and refused to participate in the proceedings.
None of the bombings of which they were convicted resulted in deaths or injuries. Rodriguez was given a 75-year federal sentence for seditious conspiracy and other charges. Among the other convicted Puerto Rican nationalists there were sentences of as long as 90 years in Federal prisons for offenses including sedition, possession of unregistered firearms, interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, interference with interstate commerce by violence and interstate transportation of firearms with intent to commit a crime. None of those granted clemency were convicted in any of the actual bombings. Rather, they had been convicted on a variety of charges ranging from bomb making and conspiracy to armed robbery and firearms violations. They were all convicted for sedition, the act of attempting to overthrow the Government of the United States in Puerto Rico by force.
There were reports of human rights violations against the FALN prisoners. The prisoners were placed in prisons far from their families, some were sexually assaulted by prison personnel, some were denied adequate medical attention, and others were kept in isolated underground prison cells for no reason. Amnesty International and the House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Administration of Justice both criticized the conditions. The conditions were found to be in violation of the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. A federal judge also addressed his concerns in the case of Baraldine vs. Meese.
At the time of their arrest Rodriguez and the others declared themselves to be combatants in an anti-colonial war against the United States to liberate Puerto Rico from U.S. domination and invoked prisoner of war status. They argued that the U.S. courts did not have jurisdiction to try them as criminals and petitioned for their cases to be handed over to an international court that would determine their status. The U.S. Government, however, did not recognize their request.
The sentences received by Rodriguez and the other Nationalists were judged to be "out of proportion to the nationalists' offenses." Statistics showed their sentences were almost 20 times greater than sentences for similar offenses by the American population at large.
For many years, numerous national and international organizations criticized Rodriguez' incarceration categorizing it as political imprisonment. Ida Luz Rodriguez was finally released from prison on September 10, 1999, after President Bill Clinton extended her clemency. Clinton cited Rev. Desmond Tutu and former President Jimmy Carter as having been influential on his decision to grant Rodriguez the clemency offer. Cases involving the release of other Puerto Rican Nationalist prisoners have also been categorized as cases of political prisoners, with some being more vocal than others.
In criticizing President Clinton's decision to release the Puerto Rican prisoners, the conservative U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee also categorized Rodriguez as a "Puerto Rican Nationalist", echoing a recent Newsweek article. In 2006, the United Nations called for the release of the remaining Puerto Rican political prisoners in United States prisons.