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Berenson Denied Appeal By Peru's Supreme Court

By Kevin R. Lang


Peru’s Supreme Court yesterday upheld the 20-year prison sentence against former MIT undergraduate Lori H. Berenson.

In an interview yesterday, her father, Mark Berenson, said that he hoped Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo would pardon his daughter, in part because “she was persecuted by the same man who persecuted him,” former President Alberto Fujimori.

He said that he would “appeal to President Toledo and ask for a pardon on humanitarian grounds.” Mark Berenson cited the “very harsh prison conditions which have permanently ruined [Lori’s] health.”

Parents expected results of appeal

The Associated Press reported that the court denied Berenson’s appeal against charges that she collaborated with a rebel group in a failed plot to seize the Peruvian Congress. With the dismissal of Berenson’s appeal, she has now exhausted all options for appeal within Peru’s justice system.

Berenson’s parents said in a statement that they were “not surprised at the decision by the Peruvian Supreme Court and are prepared to continue [their] efforts to bring Lori home.”

Her parents said they will “call upon President George W. Bush to right this wrong, to use his power under U.S.C. 22, Section 1732 and come to the rescue of a U.S. citizen who has been wrongfully held in a foreign country.” In addition, they plan to appeal to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States to call for Lori’s release, as well as appealing directly to Toledo.

Mark Berenson said he hoped that “now that Lori’s case is finally over in Peru, all three things will happen.”

Berenson and other prisoners at Huacariz Prison in Cajamarca are taking part in a nationwide hunger strike that began in Lima on Feb. 11, according to the Committee to Free Lori Berenson. The hunger strike is part of a protest against Peru’s anti-terrorism laws, under which Berenson was convicted.

Original verdict overturned

On Nov. 30, 1995, Berenson, along with some 20 members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, was arrested after an all-night shootout with law enforcement authorities. She was charged with “aggravated treason against the Fatherland.”

Following a speedy trial by a hooded military tribunal, she was sentenced to a life term in Yanamayo Prison, situated high in the cold Andean plateau. In October 1998, she was transferred to Socabaya Women’s Prison in Arequipa for medical tests.

On Aug. 28, 2000, the military court system of Peru annulled Berenson’s life sentence and turned the matter over to the civilian courts. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison, including time already served.

Berenson, now 32, withdrew from the Institute in 1988 during her sophomore year.