By CLIFFORD KRAUSS
LIMA, Peru --
President Alberto Fujimori on Tuesday emphatically rejected appeals by
Clinton administration to hold a new trial for Lori Helene Berenson, the New Yorker
imprisoned for life on terrorism charges, saying she was guilty and should be treated so.
"Is the United
States going to free those involved in the World Trade Center bombing?"
asked in an interview at the Government Palace. "I don't think so."
A flurry of speculation
about the case of Ms. Berenson, a 28-year-old former Manhattan resident,
began Sunday night when Fujimori's new prime minister, Javier Valle Riestra, told a local television
station that her 1996 trial before a military court was flawed and that she should be pardoned and
expelled to the United States.
Members of Ms.
Berenson's family and U.S. officials who had urged Valle Riestra to look
case expressed cautious optimism that there might be a breakthrough.
on Tuesday night distanced himself from Riestra, who he appointed three
stating that he had no doubt that the military tribunal that tried and convicted Ms. Berenson of
helping plan a takeover of the Peruvian Congress had acted correctly.
"I don't have
the power to pardon her and nobody else does either," Fujimori said. "My
she is a terrorist."
In a telephone
interview, Rhoda Berenson, Ms. Berenson's mother, expressed disappointment,
adding, "I think the world would like him to prove she is a terrorist, and let her have a fair trial in a
tribunal that tried Ms. Berenson was made up of judges whose identities
have been kept
secret. Her lawyers were not permitted to cross-examine witnesses, challenge evidence or call
witnesses of their own. Government prosecutors said the rebels she supported planned to take
Congress hostage and trade the legislators for imprisoned comrades.
and Vice President Al Gore have personally asked Fujimori to retry Ms.
in a civilian court. Dennis Jett, the American ambassador here, repeated the appeal last Friday to
then startled American officials by suggesting that while in his opinion
was guilty, she should be freed "for reasons of state and for the sake of Peru's prestige."
Jett chose his
words carefully Tuesday night in responding to Fujimori's remarks. "Our
continues to be she deserves to have a trial in a civilian court with all appropriate due process for her
to have the ability to establish her guilt or innocence," he said.
openly wondered if Valle Riestra had not done more harm than good by pressing
position publicly rather than lobbying behind the scenes. Ms. Berenson, they said, remains a
controversial figure here since she denied on television that the Tupac Amaru rebels were terrorists
and said she was only upholding the interests of the Peruvian poor.
A year after
she and more than 20 Tupac Amaru guerrillas were arrested, other members
group took hundreds of hostages in Japanese residence here demanding freedom of several hundred
imprisoned rebels. All 14 rebels were killed in a Government rescue operation.
Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company