The Associated Press
October 19, 2000

Berenson Declares Innocence on TV


          LIMA, Peru (AP) -- Lori Berenson, the New York woman handed a life
          sentence for terrorism by hooded military judges, denied in her first
          television interview that she was a terrorist. But she refused to condemn
          the leftist rebel group she is accused of helping to plan an attack on

          ``The charges against me are preposterous and they're obviously false,''
          Berenson said in an interview with CBS News' ''48 Hours'' program
          broadcast Thursday night. ``I am not a terrorist by any means. Quite the
          contrary, I do not believe in any act of terrorism.''

          But Berenson, 30, refused to condemn the pro-Cuban Tupac Amaru
          Revolutionary Movement, known by its Spanish initials MRTA. The
          government says she participated in a MRTA plot to seize Congress and
          take hostages to exchange for jailed rebel fighters.

          ``I don't see why I have to denounce the MRTA,'' she said when CBS
          News correspondent Peter Van Sant asked if she was prepared to do so
          before American television viewers.

          When Van Sant pointed out that the MRTA had kidnapped and
          murdered people, Berenson replied, ``I don't have a right to give any
          judgment. I'm not going to denounce anyone. To murder innocent
          people, I'm not saying that is correct. But what I'm saying in the general
          context -- trying to change one's life is not necessarily wrong.''

          She said she had no reason to believe the MRTA was a terrorist
          organization. She said she did not realize that many of the people she
          socialized with, including people she shared a house with, belonged to the

          ``I mind my own business,'' she said.

          In January 1996 a closed military tribunal sentenced her to life in prison
          without parole after declaring her guilty of treason for helping the Tupac
          Amaru rebels plan an attack on Congress. Authorities say they foiled the
          alleged plan.

          Peru's highest military court overturned the sentence on Aug. 28, paving
          the way for an open civilian trial and a chance for Berenson to clear her
          name. The trial is expected to begin in the next several weeks.