Lopez Rivera, 74, was going to be released on May 17 following Obama's clemency order. but it was a complete surprise when we learned a short time ago that the FALN convict was released Thursday morning from the federal penitentiary of Terra Haute, Ind., and arrived in his homeland of Puerto Rico.
The surprise arrival of Lopez Rivera late Thursday afternoon was on video billed as "exclusive" on Puerto Rican TV. Lopez Rivera was in the scrum wearing a green and white ball cap.
He was accompanied by his Chicago attorney Jan Sussler, daughter Clarisa and his brother Jose, a UIC professor.
Chicago congressman Luis Gutierrez traveled to the San Juan airport. Gutierrez was a main player in pressing Obama to grant clemency to the FALN convict last month.
Lopez Rivera is still in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and will be until mid-May, although it is expected he will be under home confinement with his daughter who lives in Puerto Rico.
Until Obama intervened, Lopez Rivera was serving a 70-year federal sentence for sedition, and his role in a series of bomb attacks mostly in Chicago and New York in the 1970's and 1980's--a campaign of violence aimed at gaining Puerto Rican independence.
He was hailed by some as a freedom fighter and called a political prisoner. The move to his homeland on Thursday is one big step on a road to release that was backed by some celebrities, politicians and Nobel Peace Prize winners.
Congressman Gutierrez will participate in a news conference Thursday evening with Lopez Rivera's attorney and some family members. Lopez Rivera won't be attending--or at least speaking--as he is still considered to be a federal prisoner.
Some of his supporters are angry that the arrival in San Juan was kept a secret; they wanted to give him a hero's welcome.
WATCH: FORMER ABC 7 REPORTER TOURS LOPEZ RIVER'AS APARTMENT IN 1981.
WATCH: Lopez Rivera's brother, supporters celebrate his commutation