Late yesterday, Lori Berenson was moved to a prison in Lima, Peru, as the Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori said yesterday that a military court was obligated to revoke her life prison sentence and grant a civilian trial because of evidence suggesting she was not a leader of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. Berenson is the American activist who’s been imprisoned in Peru for nearly five years, serving a life sentence for treason against the fatherland. But Berenson’s sentence was voided earlier this week. Fujimori and even Berenson’s Peruvian lawyer are saying she should be tried on lesser charges that still carry twenty-year to life sentences. She will remain in jail through her so-called civilian trial. Her parents are demanding she be released immediately. Berenson denies all charges against her.
East Timor marked the first anniversary of its historic independence vote today with tearful prayers for those killed by the Indonesian military in the long fight for independence and calls for a war crimes tribunal for those responsible. Thousands of people walked or rode in UN trucks and motorbikes to a cathedral in Dili, East Timor’s capital, to give thanks for their freedom. Thousands gathered also at Dili’s Santa Cruz cemetery, the scene of the 1991 massacre in which more than 270 Timorese were gunned down by the Indonesian military. We’ll go to Dili, East Timor, in just a few minutes.
Meanwhile, this news from Jakarta. Indonesia will clamp tight security around the venue of former dictator Suharto’s trial on graft charges tomorrow, as students say they will ignore calls not to protest against the dictator. Jakarta police spokesman told Reuters that some 1,200 police would ring the site of the landmark trial. Suharto will be tried at the government complex in the city’s south, instead of a standard courtroom, because of space and security. He has been charged with corruption and could face up to life in jail for the suspected misuse of up to half a billion dollars from seven charities he controlled while in power. Meanwhile, activists in Indonesia and the people of East Timor are calling on him to be tried for crimes against humanity.
The Miami Herald is reporting today that the Pentagon plans to send an Army general to Bogota to oversee part of its $1.3 billion Colombian anti-drug aid package. Brigadier General Keith Huber, Director of Operations at the US Southern Command in Miami, will implement the military portion of the plan. Huber, a one-star general with a twenty-five year career in the army and background in Special Forces, was appointed by Marine General Charles Wilhelm. The US aid package will go primarily to the Colombian military. It includes funds for sixty combat helicopters and military training. President Clinton travels to Cartagena today to deliver the aid package. More on this later in the program.
US officials said sonar tapes recorded by the American submarine USS Memphis support the theory that a faulty torpedo exercise sunk the Russian sub Kursk. According to senior intelligence and Navy officials, the Memphis captured sounds of two explosions, which they believe resulted from a torpedo misfiring and later an explosion of the torpedo’s warhead.
And in a ruling that could deal a blow to the Ford Motor Company, a California judge largely agreed late yesterday with complaints that Ford knowingly installed defective ignition mechanisms in nearly two million vehicles produced from 1983 to 1995. In a preliminary decision, Michael Ballachey, a Superior Court judge in Alameda County, east of San Francisco, said he intends to issue orders “compelling recall and repair of the vehicles.” The final decision, which will be discussed at a hearing at the Alameda County Court on September 28th, could be more damaging to Ford’s reputation than its finances, this according to consumer activists. In the wake of the Firestone tire recall, the company is working diligently to maintain public trust in its products. The judge said, in his ruling, “Ford withheld responsive information from the NHTSA that it was obligated to divulge.”