The Miami Herald
March 11, 2001

Fix was in for American's trial in Peru, videos show

                                      BY LUCIEN O. CHAUVIN
                                      Special to The Herald

                                      LIMA, Peru -- Peru's former spy chief was planning to rig the
                                      politically troublesome terrorism trial of a young New York
                                      woman two years in advance, two secretly taped videos

                                      The videos seem certain to widen the rift between the
                                      governments of Peru and the United States over the
                                      controversial case of Lori Berenson, whose new trial on
                                      terrorism charges is scheduled to begin later this month.

                                      Berenson was initially convicted and sentenced to life in
                                      prison in 1996 by a secret military court where she had
                                      almost no right to defend herself in a case that has long
                                      been an irritant to U.S.-Peruvian relations.

                                      Last year, a military court overturned the original conviction
                                      and granted Berenson a new trial on lesser charges in a
                                      civilian court. But the videos released Friday show Peruvian
                                      officials two years ago were discussing how they would
                                      grant her the new trial, convict her again, and then possibly
                                      send her home to the United States as part of a prisoner

                                      FAIR-TRIAL DOUBTS

                                      Berenson's furious mother said Saturday that the tapes
                                      prove what she has argued all along -- that her daughter
                                      can't get a fair shake in Peru. ``The international human
                                      rights community keeps telling us that Lori can't get a fair
                                      trial in these courts, and we don't understand why the
                                      present government would go ahead with such trials under
                                      these conditions,'' said Rhoda Berenson from her home in
                                      New York.

                                      Berenson was arrested Nov. 30, 1995, accused of belonging
                                      to the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, or MRTA. She
                                      was tried and sentenced to life in prison for treason by a
                                      military court six weeks later for her alleged participation in
                                      an MRTA plot to take the Peruvian Congress hostage.

                                      Prosecutors said that Berenson, posing as a journalist,
                                      gathered information on the layout of the congressional
                                      building to help the MRTA guerrillas plan their assault.

                                      The just-released secret videotapes are among several
                                      thousand confiscated from the collection of former Peruvian
                                      spy master Vladimiro Montesinos, now a fugitive after the
                                      government of President Alberto Fujimori collapsed. They
                                      show Montesinos discussing the Berenson case in February
                                      1998 with then-Foreign Minister Eduardo Ferrero and
                                      television personalities.

                                      In the first tape, Montesinos says the military court could
                                      review Berenson's case and the original charge of treason be
                                      dropped in favor of a civilian trial. He adds that she could be
                                      given a 10- to 15-year sentence and eventually returned to
                                      the United States under an inmate exchange treaty.

                                      ``Right now I could tell the Supreme Council of Military
                                      Justice to bring her here from Yanamayo [prison]. We don't
                                      need to consult with anyone; we can evaluate it this
                                      weekend and decide,'' Montesinos says.

                                      In another video, taped three weeks later with José
                                      Francisco Crousillat and talk-show host Gisela Valcárcel,
                                      Montesinos talks about Berenson's alleged role in the plan
                                      to take over Congress.

                                      SPY CHIEF'S ASSESSMENT

                                      ``Lori Berenson was the gringa and Nancy Gilvonio
                                      pretended to be her assistant, her Peruvian secretary who
                                      arranged interviews'' in the Congress.

                                      ``They were reconstructing [the congressional building] and
                                      had an architect making plans and designs,'' Montesinos

                                      Police foiled the MRTA's congressional takeover with a raid
                                      on a guerrilla safe house where Berenson had lived.

                                      During a 12-hour shootout, several MRTA members were
                                      killed and a number of rebel leaders -- including Miguel
                                      Rincón, the group's number three man -- were arrested.

                                      Berenson was grabbed hours before the shootout began
                                      while riding on a bus in downtown Lima. She was arrested
                                      with Gilvonio, who turned out to be the wife of Néstor Cerpa,
                                      an MRTA founder.

                                      The newly released videos show that Montesinos was
                                      keenly interested in the Berenson case long before the
                                      retrial was ordered.