Mary McGrory's Oct. 2 column "Awaiting a Daughter's Return" referred to the case of U.S. political prisoner Silvia Baraldini, whose transfer to her native Italy pursuant to the Strasbourg Convention has been opposed by U.S. authorities because of her "unrepentant" political views.
Miss McGrory alluded to Silvia Baraldini's repressive treatment at the hands of U.S. authorities -- a grossly disproportionate 43-year sentence, confinement in the underground isolation and control unit for women at Lexington, Ky., and medical maltreatment and neglect.
More than 100 such political prisoners are incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails. Because they are unwilling to renounce their political beliefs (and are thus characterized as "unrepentant"), they receive excessive sentences and are routinely denied appropriate parole. They are subjected to isolation, behavior modification and other punitive conditions.
For example, Geronimo JiJaga Pratt, a former Black Panther Party leader, has been denied parole several times despite evidence that his murder conviction was falsely orchestrated by the FBI. The due process and human rights concerns raised by Mr. Pratt's case have been cited by many domestic and international human rights groups, including Amnesty International, which also condemned the conditions in prisons such as Lexington and the U.S. Penitentiary at Marion, Ill., where those convicted of politically motivated offenses are routinely sent.
The U.S. government is hypocritical on issues of political prisoners and human rights. Jose Dionisio Suarez Esquivel was recently allowed to plead guilty to the 1976 assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, for which he will receive a 12-year sentence. Geronimo Pratt, by contrast, is serving a life term and has already spent more than 19 years in jail, nine of them in solitary confinement.
In July, the U.S. Parole Commission rejected the application for "humanitarian" release of U.S. political prisoner Alan Berkman who suffers from a recurrence of lymphatic cancer. Mr. Berkman is serving a 12-year sentence for possession of weapons and explosives; his parole request was supported by many prominent members of the community, including members of Congress.
These are but a few examples of the disparate treatment the United States routinely accords to its own political dissidents, while condemning other countries for not freeing their political prisoners or for denying them fair treatment. Miss McGrory's column barely scratched the surface.
MARY K. O'MELVENY Washington
The writer represented Silvia Baraldini in a lawsuit challenging her placement in the Lexington control unit.