Lori Berenson, the 31-year-old New Yorker who has been held for more than five years in Peruvian prisons on terrorismcharges, was convicted last night of collaborating in foiled plot to take the entire Peruvian Congress hostage. Shewas sentenced to 20 years in prison.
A three-judge tribunal ruled that Berenson had rented a house in Lima for the express purpose of providing a base forthe revolutionary group, MRTA, bought communications equipment for the group, and used press credentials to gainaccess to Congress.
She was sentenced in 1996 to life in prison by a secret military court with hooded judges that did not allow herlawyer to cross-examine witnesses. Berenson herself was not even allowed to testify or face her accusers. She hasspent the last 5 years in a freezing prison in the Andes. The verdict was overturned in August and she won acivilian retrial. That trial started March 20.
Berenson has always maintained her innocence.
In a 45-minute final statement yesterday, she again refused to condemn the MRTA, but said she never knew of a rebelplot to attack the Congress, or even that her housemates were rebels. She said, "I am not a terrorist and I condemnterrorism." "I have been treated as a symbol of political violence and terrorism for five years and that is aninjustice."
Berenson’s lawyer Jose Luis Sandoval said that the conviction would be appealed to Peru’s Supreme Court–a processthat will likely take several months–as well as to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which could takeyears.
- Mark Berenson, father of Lori Berenson speaking to us from Lima, Peru. There will be a protest of theconviction in NewYork on Monday, June 25, at 5.30 pm in front of the Peruvian Consulate at 241 East 49th St. 5.30 pm. In Washington,D.C., there will be a protest on Thursday, June 28 at 5.30 pm in front of the Peruvian Embassy at 1700 MassachusettsAve. NW. Lori Berenson’s parents Mark and Rhoda will be at both events.