American in Peru prepares for retrial
LIMA, Peru -- (AP) -- Lori Berenson, an
American woman imprisoned for treason
in Peru, arrived in the capital Thursday to prepare for a new trial following a
military court decision that overturned the life sentence she was serving for aiding
Berenson, 30, had spent nearly five years
in prison before the top military court
Lori Berenson, 30, spent nearly five years in prison for aiding rebels. The life
sentence has been overturned.
announced three days ago that it had decided to allow a new trial in a civilian
court, a longtime demand of U.S. officials.
But the state prosecutor handling the case
on Thursday confidently predicted the
New York native would receive a minimum 20-year sentence in the civilian trial.
Television images showed police patting
down a bespectacled Berenson, dressed
in jeans and a burgundy sweater, before she was led aboard a commercial flight
in the southern city of Arequipa, 475 miles southeast of Lima.
Hours later in Lima, Berenson was taken
in an armored vehicle led by a heavily
guarded police motorcade to the maximum security wing of the Santa Mónica
Berenson was found guilty of treason by
a military tribunal in January 1996,
accused of helping the rebel Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement plan an
attack on Peru's Congress.
Since being convicted, Berenson has been
held in two prisons. In 1998, she was
moved from a high mountain jail cell to a prison in Arequipa after complaining of
harsh prison conditions and poor treatment by guards.
In an interview, state prosecutor María
del Pilar Peralta said she had filed seven
charges against Berenson, but declined to specify the charges.
She described the state's evidence as ``abundant''
and able to clearly link
Berenson to the now all but defunct Peruvian rebel group -- known by its Spanish
Peralta said she expected the trial to center
around new testimony by government
officials held hostage during the rebel group's 1996 takeover of the Japanese
ambassador's residence in Lima, during which they held 72 hostages for four
Peralta said the officials would provide
evidence implicating Berenson in the leftist
The government officials ``supposedly talked
with members of the MRTA who said
she was a collaborator,'' Peralta said.
U.S. officials have criticized Peru's judicial
system, saying trials in its military
courts, as well as those for terrorism in civilian courts, do not meet internationally
accepted standards of due process.