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Puerto Rican Activists Jailed

August 4, 2000

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ Four Puerto Rican independence activists, including two legislators and a Presbyterian minister, were sent to jail Friday for refusing to pay fines for trespassing on a U.S. Navy bombing range on the island of Vieques.

U.S. District Court Judge Jesus Castellanos sentenced the men for refusing to pay a $1,000 fine each for entering the range Thursday at the start of Navy exercises on the island. Hundreds have been detained or arrested for trespassing on the range to urge an end to bombing and shelling on the island of 9,400 people.

The Puerto Rican Independence Party’s only two members on the local legislature, Sen. Manuel Rodriguez Orellana and Rep. Victor Garcia San Inocencio, were sentenced along with the Rev. Luis Acevedo of the western town of Mayaguez and Jaime Negron, a candidate for mayor in the northern town of Trujillo Alto.

``Not only are we winning, but we’ve humbled them and defeated them by entering the range,″ Rodriguez Orellana said in a statement through his attorney, Maria de Lourdes Santiago.

Dozens of activists have been released in the past few weeks, some without fines and others ordered to pay fines within 30 days.

The USS Harry S. Truman Battle Group, including 15 ships and 12,000 sailors, began air, ship and submarine training at Vieques and surrounding seas on Thursday. The exercise _ to prepare for a six-month deployment to the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf _ ends Aug. 24.

President Clinton has ordered the Navy to use dummy bombs on Vieques until Vieques residents can vote in a referendum, expected next year, on whether to expel the Navy. Live bombing can resume if the Navy wins.

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