Peru Releases U.S. Citizen Lori Berenson
LIMA – U.S. citizen Lori Berenson was released from a Peruvian prison Monday after serving nearly 15 years on a conviction for aiding leftist rebels.
She went directly to her Lima apartment, where her mother was waiting for her with Berenson’s 18-month-old son, Salvador, Efe confirmed.
Berenson moved into the apartment in May, when she was first freed on parole. The American woman was re-incarcerated three months later on a technicality.
She and her attorney, Anibal Apari, slipped out of Chorillos Women’s Prison by a side entrance to avoid the throng of reporters and photographers at the main gate. Berenson later told journalists gathered outside her apartment that she could not make any statements.
In a hearing last Friday, Judge Jessica Leon upheld her own earlier decision to parole Berenson, who was sentenced to 20 years for allegedly helping leftist rebels plan an attack on Peru’s Congress.
Berenson’s legal issues remain unresolved, however, because prosecutors are planning another appeal.
Apari, who was released from prison a few years ago after serving time for rebel links, is Berenson’s ex-husband and the father of Salvador.
Berenson was arrested in December 1995 as she was leaving the Peruvian Congress. Prosecutors said she entered the premises with false press credentials to obtain information on the building’s security systems for use in planning an attack by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, or MRTA.
A day after her arrest, police foiled an MRTA plot to storm Congress, take lawmakers hostage and exchange them for jailed leaders of the now-defunct rebel group.
One of the special military courts established by then-President Alberto Fujimori – now in prison for massacres – sentenced Berenson to life behind bars for treason.
The sentence was reduced to 20 years by a civilian court that retried the U.S. activist after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled invalid the verdicts handed down by the Fujimori-era panels.
In a public hearing in August before the National Penal Court, Berenson apologized for having supported the MRTA.
“Yes, I collaborated with the MRTA. I was never a leader or a militant. I never participated in violent or bloody acts. I never killed anybody,” she said at the televised court session. “If my participation contributed to societal violence I am very sorry for this.”
Now 40, Berenson must remain in Peru for five years, unless the government decides to commute the rest of her original sentence and expel her.
Many in Peru were angered by Berenson’s parole.
Around 70,000 Peruvians died in politically motivated violence between 1980-2000. The biggest share of the killings is attributed to the Maoist-inspired Shining Path, with the security forces’ accounting for most of the rest. EFE