By ANAND JUAREGUILORDA, age 12
In his final days in office this January, former President Barack Obama commuted the sentence of two important political prisoners, Chelsea Manning and Oscar López Rivera. Both are scheduled for release this May. A political prisoner is a person who is imprisoned for their political beliefs or actions. Chelsea Manning, former United States Army soldier, was convicted of violating the Espionage Act and has been imprisoned since August 2013. Oscar López Rivera, a Puerto Rican independence activist, has been in prison for 35 years.
Chelsea Manning was incarcerated for leaking U.S. military documents in 2010. Manning stated that she released the documents in an attempt to start a discussion and to let the American people know what was going on. She is to be released in part because prosecutors claimed there was no evidence that anyone had been killed because of the leaks. In an email interview with IndyKids, Manning’s attorney, Chase Strangio, said, “As a transgender woman in a men’s prison, [Manning] faced added challenges to her dignity, safety and in her access to health care. She had to file a lawsuit just to get access to the health care that the military’s own doctors recommended for her.”
Oscar López Rivera was involved with a Puerto Rican independence group called F.A.L.N. (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional) when he was imprisoned. He was convicted for plotting with F.A.L.N. to overthrow the U.S. government. He spent half of his life in prison but he was never convicted of killing or hurting anyone.
Alejandro Molina of the National Boricua Human Rights Campaign said, “We have to demand freedom for those who struggle for freedom.”
Commute: To reduce a judicial sentence to one which is less severe.
Espionage Act: An Act, passed in 1917, to punish acts of interference with the foreign relations, and the foreign commerce of the United States.
Boricua: A Puerto Rican citizen.