Incarceration Nation

Dear Editors,

Alan Rickman-February 2, 1946-January 14, 2016

Alan Rickman was born in London and grew up in a working class council estate in west London. He died of cancer in London this week, aged 69, surrounded by his family and friends. He was a talented and adaptable actor, a decent and kind human being, but also had a keen social conscience and was politically active. He gave his time, energy and money campaigning for human rights, refugees and many other worthy causes.

In December 2015, Alan Rickman lent his famous voice to a video of a tortoise eating a strawberry. He was working with Save the Children and the Refugee Council to create a viral video that would help raise money for the two charities. By watching the video, viewers can help raise money for children and refugees.

"It works like this," Alan Rickman's says in the video. "The more views the video gets, the more advertising revenue YouTube will give us. Together, you and this tortoise can make a difference."

Alan Rickman was also an ardent supporter of the Palestinian people's rights and their struggle for justice. In 2005, he edited and directed the award winning play; "My Name is Rachel Corrie," with the help of journalist Katharine Viner. The play is based on the diaries and emails of Rachel Corrie. The focus of the play is around the events leading up to Corrie's death, which her family members and eye witnesses say was an intentional killing and Israel claims was "accidental".

Rachel Corrie (April 10, 1979-March 16, 2003) was a young American student, peace activist and member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) who traveled to Palestine during the Second Intifada (uprising). She was killed by a Caterpillar D9R armored bulldozer operated by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) while protesting against the destruction of a Palestinian house by the IDF in the Gaza Strip. An Israeli military investigation ruled the death to be an accident, but the ISM maintains that Corrie was run over deliberately. In 2012 the Haifa District Court ruled in a lawsuit filed by Corrie's parents that her death was an accident.

Alan Rickman's political involvements during his life meant he did make a difference. Alan Rickman left behind a legacy of a life well lived. Though his wonderful film roles, caring efforts and projects, he lives on. Alan Rickman and Rachel Corrie were both compassionate and righteous people who stood up for just causes. For these reasons, Alan Rickman's important contributions to the liberation of Palestine and work to help other deprived people will never be forgotten. He will be remembered and will live on in our hearts. Thanks and RIP Alan Rickman.

-Steven Katsineris

Free Oscar Lopez Rivera

Puerto Rican political prisoner

By Steven Katsineris

"I don't have any blood on my hands. I haven't victimized anyone. And I've devoted most of my life serving a just and noble cause and struggling to help make this world a better and more just one." -Oscar Lopez Rivera, in a February 2011 letter.

For over 32 years Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera has been imprisoned in the United States for his activities in support of freedom and independence for his country, the island of Puerto Rico.

Oscar Lopez Rivera was arrested on May 29, 1981 and accused of seditious conspiracy. He was later sentenced to 70 years in prison. He has now served 33 years in prison, 12-and-a-half years of that in total isolation. These harsh conditions did not break Oscar's spirit, which they were seemingly intended to do. He remains a strong and principled man despite his long ordeal. But despite the lengthy time served Oscar still remains in prison.

Oscar was not accused or convicted of causing injury or taking life. During his presidency stated that Oscar Lopez Rivera's sentence was disproportionately lengthy and that Oscar should be released in September of 2009. Oscar's co-defendants were released as a result of the 1999 Clinton clemency. The other of Oscar's remaining co-defendants, Puerto Rican political prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres was released in July 2010.

Oscar has the support of a broad section of Puerto Rico's civil society, as well as the Puerto Rican and Latino communities across the USA. The decision to keep him in prison ignores the express will of the Puerto Rican people and those who believe in justice and human rights, including the tens-of-thousands of voices supporting his immediate release.

Among these many ignored voices are, the Puerto Rican Governor, members of the United States Congress; the state legislatures of New York, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania; the city councils and county boards of many locales in the U.S. and Puerto Rico; the mayors of many towns in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, including the Association of Mayors of Puerto Rico; bar associations including the Puerto Rico Bar Association, the National Lawyers Guild and the American Association of Jurists; clergy and religious organizations, including the Ecumenical Coalition representing every religious denomination in Puerto Rico; human rights advocates, academics, students, artists, community organizations and workers.

The United States government consistently demands that other governments, in order to establish their democratic credentials, release political prisoners in their custody. The U.S.'s conduct is totally inconsistent with what the U.S. demands of other governments. The White House has recently proposed to initiate a process to resolve the status of Puerto Rico. A true process of self-determination under international law should be accompanied by the goodwill gesture of releasing all political prisoners. This seems such an essential step towards a positive resolution to the Puerto Rican situation.

Oscar is now 70 years old and over 32-years is more than enough time served. Another 15-years or more in prison is utterly cruel and excessive. Together we can make a difference to ending this gross injustice. Help publicize this worthy cause and support the ongoing international campaign demanding the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera. We need everyone to continue to apply the pressure. We need everyone to continue to write letters, post on your websites, Facebook and tweet. We need to continue to apply the pressure. We can make a difference and your calls and letters will have an impact. Please act to help Oscar. Request that President Obama grant Oscar clemency and pardon him.

"His sentence, far too excessive, violates the most elemental principles of humanity, sensitivity and justice." -Puerto Rican Governor and Attorney Alejandro Padilla, October 2014.