NATION IN BRIEF

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Probe of Shootout In Puerto Rico Urged

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Puerto Rican officials urged the Justice Department to investigate the death of the fugitive founder of a violent Puerto Rican independence group who was killed in a gunfight with federal agents.

The FBI said Filiberto Ojeda Rios, 72, opened fire on agents who were trying to arrest him at a farmhouse in the Hormigueros area of western Puerto Rico on Friday. Ojeda Rios was killed, and an FBI agent was shot in the stomach and severely wounded, the agency said.

Ojeda Rios was the founder and leader of Puerto Rico's radical Boricua Popular Army, which sought independence for the U.S. territory in the Caribbean. The group was known as the Macheteros , or machete-wielders. It was blamed for a wave of bombings and killings targeting civilians and military sites in the 1970s and 1980s.

Ojeda Rios and several other members of the group were indicted on charges of robbing a Wells Fargo armored car depot of more than $7 million in West Hartford, Conn., in 1983, in order to finance their activities. Ojeda Rios jumped bail while awaiting trial. He was convicted in absentia in 1992 and was sentenced to 55 years in prison.

The FBI said it had the farmhouse under surveillance for several days and tried to serve an arrest warrant once the agents' presence was detected. They said Ojeda Rios shot at the agents several times and they returned fire. His wife, Elma Beatriz Rosado Barbosa, left the house during the encounter. She will not face charges, the FBI said.

Puerto Rico Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila said the commonwealth must know whether Ojeda Rios died instantly or could have been saved if he had received medical attention.

The FBI said agents did not immediately enter the home because they feared it might have been rigged with explosives.

Politicians across party lines blasted the FBI's handling of the operation and said neither the governor nor local law enforcement officials were told anything for nearly a day. They said they learned of the shootout from news reports.

N.M. Governor Faults Treatment of Scientist

SANTA FE, N.M. -- Wen Ho Lee, the former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist who was in solitary confinement for nine months, was "badly treated," Gov. Bill Richardson (D) acknowledges in his new autobiography.

Richardson was energy secretary in the Clinton administration when Lee was indicted in 1999 on 59 counts alleging he mishandled nuclear information. Lee was released in September 2000 after pleading guilty to one felony count, and he received an apology from the judge who released him.

"As for Lee, he committed a crime, but he also was badly treated," Richardson wrote in "Between Worlds: The Making of an American Life," due out Nov. 3.

"Here was the government putting this skinny 60-year-old guy into solitary confinement for nearly a year. I have come to realize that it was wrong and I should have spoken out more, although I did try to influence the Justice Department on their incarceration of Lee."

Lee acknowledged downloading data to computer tape but said he made copies to protect data from being erased. Lee, a U.S. citizen who was born in Taiwan, was never charged with espionage and said he never passed sensitive or classified material.

-- From News Services


© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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