FALN Members Free To Fight

Eleven members of the Puerto Rican independence group FALN are free from federal prisons after being granted clemency by President Clinton, reports CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers.

Two will remain in Chicago, and the rest will return to their homeland, including Ricardo Jimenez. He says, "We are all Puerto Ricans, the crime here is colonialism and that's why we all happen to be here."

Jimenez and the others were convicted of conspiracy for their part in a wave of bombings in the 1970s and 80s that left six people dead and dozens injured in New York and Chicago. None of those offered clemency was directly responsible for deaths or injuries, and they were required to renounce violence as a condition for accepting clemency, officials say.

But Mr. Clinton's offer stirred controversy among victims of FALN violence and complicated his wife's potential bid for the Senate from New York. He said he didn't discuss the matter with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who hopes that her opposition to that clemency won't damage her likely bid for a Senate seat from New York.

While those released agreed to Clinton's terms, no one at a Chicago rally Friday night sounded at all contrite.

"We have gained a minor victory, but there is still a lot of work to be done," explains Alejandrino Torres. Torres was convicted in part by a 1983 surveillance tape which the FBI says depicts her and an associate building a bomb.

Former New York City police detective Rich Pastroelli was blinded and maimed by a FALN bomb. He worries the group will ignore the government mandate not to associate with each other and go back to their old ways. "If these terrorists are released back into society, my colleagues and I believe that they will resume exactly where they left off," he says.

The House of Representatives condemned the clemency offer on a 311-41 vote that was little more than a symbolic gesture, since Mr. Clinton holds exclusive power over clemency.

Despite a warm welcome home, the freed prisoners remain controversial even in Puerto Rico, which is no closer to independence today than it was in the 1970s. But that hasn't dampened their commitment, or enthusiasm for their cause.