The New York Times
June 24, 1998
Peruvian Leader Rejects U.S. Call to Free American Woman


          LIMA, Peru -- President Alberto Fujimori on Tuesday emphatically rejected appeals by the
          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?" Fujimori
          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 into the
          case expressed cautious optimism that there might be a breakthrough.

          But Fujimori on Tuesday night distanced himself from Riestra, who he appointed three weeks ago,
          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 opinion is
          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
          civilian court."

          The military 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.

          President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore have personally asked Fujimori to retry Ms. Berenson
          in a civilian court. Dennis Jett, the American ambassador here, repeated the appeal last Friday to
          Valle Riestra.

          Valle Riestra then startled American officials by suggesting that while in his opinion Ms. Berenson
          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 position
          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.

          U.S. officials openly wondered if Valle Riestra had not done more harm than good by pressing his
          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 of the
          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