Jailed U.S. woman moved to Peru capital for retrial
LIMA, Peru (Reuters) -- Peruvian authorities on Thursday moved Lori Berenson,
a U.S. woman jailed on terrorism charges, to the capital for a new civilian trial
from a provincial jail where she was serving a life sentence for treason.
A convoy of police jeeps driving at high-speed with sirens blazing took
30, a New Yorker jailed for life in 1996 as a Marxist rebel, to a high-security
women's prison after she flew into Lima from the southern city of Arequipa.
Berenson, who came to Peru in 1994 as a reporter for leftist U.S. magazines
whose case has been a source of friction between Peru and the United States,
was held in Socabaya jail for about half her four years in Peru's prisons.
Before reaching the women's prison on Thursday, the convoy suddenly slowed
to a near stop on a beach road as officials in Berenson's car appeared to point out
to the Pacific Ocean.
Sentenced by a secret military court in 1996, her surprise new trial is
sure to put
Peru's much questioned judiciary in the spotlight after President Alberto
Fujimori's May reelection in a vote the opposition boycotted and called rigged.
Berenson was expected to be questioned by Judge Romel Borda later in the
The new trial was likely to last between two and three months, according to
In her first public sighting in nearly two years, Berenson, wearing glasses
blue jeans with her long dark hair loose, left Socabaya jail flanked by police
officers in a car as it headed for the airport. Berenson, with her right arm
appearing to be in a sling, smiled and chatted with officials.
Berenson was sentenced to life by a hooded military judge for treason after
found guilty of being a leader of the Cuban-inspired Tupac Amaru Revolutionary
Movement (MRTA) and plotting to attack Congress. Berenson says she is
In a surprise U-turn this week, Peru's top military council, which President
Alberto Fujimori is widely believed to control, annulled the verdict and passed the
case to a civilian court for a retrial the president has long resisted.
Fujimori told reporters fresh evidence had emerged showing Berenson was
MRTA leader. State prosecutor Maria del Pilar Peralta said Berenson faced a
minimum sentence of 20 years if found guilty -- although her life term could be
reconfirmed -- under the new trial. She could be set free.
But one of Peru's top judicial officials, David Pezua, told local Channel
television he believed she would face a maximum 10-year sentence.
Peru is under international pressure to clean up one of the worst human
records in Latin America and to restore credibility to its democracy after
Judicial reform is high on the 29-point agenda of democratic reforms demanded
by the Organization of American States that are being debated by the government
and opposition parties in tough talks that began 10 days ago.
The Berenson case, which has proved a thorn in the side of relations between
Fujimori and Washington, has inflamed political passions in Peru.
Defeated presidential challenger Alejandro Toledo called the retrial a
screen" and other opposition figures said it was a concession to Washington to
win support for a government that has become increasingly isolated
Even staunch Fujimori allies questioned the retrial, while opposition figures
immediately demanded the same treatment for four Chilean MRTA members also
serving jail terms in Peru. Fujimori said there was no fresh evidence in those
Peruvians, who suffered fierce guerrilla wars in the late 1980s and early
that were halted by a Fujimori crackdown, generally have little sympathy for
Berenson, believing she got the same treatment as anyone accused of being a