Jackson seeks release of American in Peru
NEW YORK -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson said he intends to go to Peru
with Lori Berenson, a New Yorker who has been imprisoned on charges of
treason for more than five years, and negotiate her release.
Berenson's life sentence for treason and terrorism, handed down
in a military
court there, was overturned last month. A new trial in civilian court is planned.
Jackson made what he called a mercy plea for Berenson's release
Friday in front
of a surprised President Alberto Fujimori of Peru at a Manhattan luncheon, at
which Fujimori tried to review his nation's economic and social progress before a
gathering of New York investors and bankers. Fujimori was in New York to attend
the U.N. Millennium Summit.
Jackson called on Fujimori, who stood stone-faced on the podium,
to consider the
years that Berenson has already spent in prison as time served and to release
her immediately. He told Fujimori that doing so ``would be a smart thing to do''
and would represent ``no threat to your sovereignty.''
Fujimori said that the judicial branch of the government would
handle the trial,
``not the executive.''
Then he left open the possibility of a visit by Jackson. ``Of
course, we are always
willing to dialogue,'' Fujimori said, adding that the discussions could continue
when Jackson was in Peru.
Mark L. Berenson, the imprisoned woman's father, said in a telephone
that he had met Jackson last week in Chicago after appearing on Oprah to talk
about the new trial.
``It's uplifting to us and to many Americans who have seen how
has worked for the release of prisoners in Liberia, Kosovo, Cuba, Saudi Arabia
and Iraq,'' he said. ``We're pleased that in the name of humanity, justice and
dignity he's doing the same now.''
Jackson has spoken publicly about Lori Berenson's case several
meeting her father in Chicago. But during the confrontation with Fujimori, Jackson
made it clear that he planned to intervene directly.