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Forum Convenes in Support of Berenson

By Ramy A. Arnaout
and Dan McGuire
Staff Reporters

The parents of Lori Berenson, a former MIT student currently serving a life prison sentence in Peru, will join faculty members and students in a discussion forum tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. in Room 6-120.

The forum will be both a show of support for Berenson, who was sentenced by a secret military tribunal in November for her suspected involvement with Peruvian anti-government forces, and a discussion of human rights.

Professor of Anthropology Martin Diskin, Professor of Philosophy Joshua Cohen, Professor of Biology Jonathan A. King, and Political Science Administrative Assistant Toby Weiner organized the reception as a way to raise consciousness about Berenson's situation.

"As faculty and as parents, our sympathies go out to [Berenson's] parents; we want to welcome them back to MIT," King said. "She was a student who acted on her social concerns, and we want to do what we can to help obtain her release."

"The more people who know about her situation" the better, King said. "Usually, knowledge precedes action. So we're following in a long MIT tradition," he said.

She was charged with treason

Berenson, 26, withdrew from the Institute in 1988 as a sophomore majoring in anthropology and archaeology. She was arrested Nov. 30 last year along with 22 others after an all-night shootout in a Lima suburb between Peruvian government forces and members of the Marxist Tpac Amaru Resistance Movement guerrilla movement.

Peru's President, Alberto Fujimori, charged that Berenson aided the rebels in planning an attack on Congress, according to the Associated Press.

Berenson was accused of renting the rebels a safe house in the La Molina district and bringing them food. She was also charged with stockpiling weapons and gathering information for the guerrillas, but denied the charges.

The life sentence came as a surprise, since prosecutors had asked for a 30-year term, the minimum sentence for treason in Peru. In addition, the identity of the military judge was concealed, and Berenson's lawyers were not allowed to cross-examine witnesses.

"The United States remains concerned that Ms. Berenson receive due process. We have repeatedly expressed these concerns to the Government of Peru The United States will continue to follow this case closely," the State Department said at the time.