January 14, 2000
American serving life sentence goes on hunger strike in Peru

                  LIMA, Peru (AP) -- An American woman serving a life sentence for
                  treason in Peru has gone on a hunger strike in protest of her conviction
                  and imprisonment, family members said today.

                  Lori Berenson, a New York native and former Massachusetts Institute of
                  Technology student, was convicted by a secret military court in 1996 for
                  helping pro-Cuban Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement rebels plan a
                  thwarted attack on Peru's Congress.

                  "She is frustrated. She is asking for her freedom because she was wrongfully
                  convicted and she's innocent," said her father, Mark Berenson, who was
                  reached at his New York home today.

                  According to a press release from the national penitentiary institute,
                  Berenson, 30, informed prison authorities that she was beginning a hunger
                  strike on January 11. She is consuming liquids but not solid foods.

                  Berenson is being held in Socabaya prison, 465 miles southeast of Lima.
                  She began her hunger strike on Tuesday to commemorate the fourth
                  anniversary of her conviction, her father said.

                  Mr. Berenson and his wife, Rhoda, have been carrying out a campaign to
                  free her. But President Alberto Fujimori has said she is a terrorist and will
                  serve her full sentence in Peruvian prisons.

                  Berenson, who was convicted by a military court, has said she was not
                  allowed to present evidence at her trial or to question prosecution witnesses
                  and that the judge wore a hood.

                  The State Department has asked Peru to give her an open civilian trial,
                  arguing that her summary military trial denied her due process.

                  In comments to reporters on Thursday, Prime Minister Alberto Bustamante,
                  who is also the justice minister, said that a pardon for Berenson is out of the
                  question and that she could only receive a new trial if she proves her
                  conviction was unjust, arbitrary or not based on the facts of the case.

                  The government maintains that secret military proceedings with hooded
                  judges were necessary during Peru's bloody battle with leftist rebels because
                  civilian courts were releasing too many suspects and judges feared reprisals.
                  The practice was abolished in 1997.

                    Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.