Associated Press
February 19, 2002

Peru Won't Pardon Jailed American

 By CRAIG MAURO
 Associated Press Writer

 LIMA, Peru (AP) Peru's justice minister on Tuesday ruled out a presidential pardon for Lori
 Berenson after the Supreme Court confirmed the American woman's 20-year sentence for aiding
 leftist rebels.

 ``She is a proven terrorist, sentenced by the Supreme Court ... There is simply nothing more to
 discuss about the matter,'' Fernando Olivera said. ``A presidential pardon is not under consideration.''
 

 Olivera did not say if he discussed the idea with Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, who has final
 say over whether to grant the pardon.

 Berenson, 32, has already been jailed for six years and must now serve out her term until 2015. Unless she is
 pardoned or released by a ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, she will leave prison at age 46.

 Her parents, Mark and Rhoda Berenson, said Olivera's stance would not discourage them from petitioning Toledo for a pardon.

 The Supreme Court upheld a lower court's ruling last June that Berenson collaborated with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary
 Movement in a failed bid to seize Peru's Congress in 1995. Berenson was acquitted of being a member of the rebel group.

 The lower court ruled that Berenson rented a house that the guerrillas used as a secret hide-out and posed as a journalist to
 enter Congress with a top rebel's wife to collect intelligence.

 Berenson denies the charges and says she didn't know her housemates were rebels. She considers herself a political prisoner
 because her concerns for social justice were wrongly portrayed as a terrorist agenda.

 A secret military tribunal had already sentenced the New York native in 1996 to life in prison for being a rebel leader. After years
 of pressure from the United States, the ruling was overturned in August 2000 and her case remitted to a civilian court.

 State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington that he didn't know whether the United States would seek a
 pardon for Berenson. He added that Peru's courts had followed due process in her case, which was all the United States had
 requested.

 Berenson condemned the Supreme Court decision in a statement released by her parents and said she was joining hundreds of
 jailed guerrillas in a hunger strike to protest prison conditions and Peru's anti-terrorism laws.

 Her parents said they will appeal to President Bush to lobby for Berenson's release during an official visit to Peru on March 23 to
 discuss trade, drug trafficking and terrorism.

 ``We hope, of course, that President Bush will bring Lori home,'' Mark Berenson said.

 Peruvian officials have not publicly ruled out the possibility of Berenson's case being discussed by Toledo and Bush.

 Pardoning Berenson could damage Toledo's already low popularity among Peruvians, who see her as a foreign terrorist in a
 country that suffered through years of guerrilla violence.

 The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, part of the Organization of American States, is reviewing Berenson's case.

 The case could eventually reach the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which has the power to overturn her conviction. Peru
 is a member state of the court and must adhere to its rulings.