OAS rights court mulls Berenson case
LIMA, Peru (Reuters) -- With Peru insisting it will not reopen the case
U.S. citizen jailed for helping leftist rebels, the Organization of American
States said on Tuesday the region's top rights court would soon announce if it
would review the high-profile case.
"The court is deciding whether it's going to take (the case of Lori Berenson)
not," an official at the OAS, requesting anonymity, told Reuters.
He said the case had been referred to the OAS' Costa Rica-based Inter-American
Court of Human Rights by its human rights commission, and that the court would
announce in May if it will act on the Berenson case.
If so, the court's ruling, which might include a retrial or release, would
binding for Peru. Berenson's case was discussed last weekend in a closed-door
meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush and President Alejandro Toledo.
Berenson was given life in jail in 1996 by a military court as a leader
of the Marxist
Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, or MRTA. MRTA, along with larger
Shining Path, battled the state throughout the 1980s and 1990s in a conflict that
killed 30,000 people.
Berenson, a 32-year-old New Yorker, denies any wrongdoing and called the
process "a farce from its beginning to its end."
Peru's top appeals court in February upheld the 20-year sentence Berenson
in a civilian retrial last year, exhausting her legal options in Peru. That conviction
was for aiding the MRTA, which is best known for a 1996-1997 hostage siege at
the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima.
"There will be no pardon, sentence reduction, or any type of friendly solution
Lori Berenson, because she was convicted in an exemplary trial," Justice Minister
Fernando Olivera said in a report published in El Comercio newspaper.
"This is an absolutely closed case," added First Vice President Raul Diez Canseco.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who traveled to Lima with Bush, said
leader had brought up Berenson but did not directly ask Toledo for a pardon. He
added the United States would await the outcome of the Court's ruling.
Berenson could ask to serve the remainder of her sentence in a U.S. jail
but has said
she will not do so.
Last December Berenson, who has health problems after serving time in freezing
high-altitude prisons, was transferred from a Lima jail to the northern city
Cajamarca, for what officials said were disciplinary reasons. Her family denied the
charges and said police assaulted her when she was moved.
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