Today marks the 10th anniversary of the arrest of U.S. citizen Lori Berenson in Peru. She was convicted in 1995 in Peru by hooded military judges of collaborating with the rebel group MRTA. After 10 years in prison, her father, Mark Berenson, reads a statement Lori released from her cell. She is scheduled to be released in 2015. [includes rush transcript]
Today marks the 10th anniversary of the arrest of U.S. citizen Lori Berenson in Peru.
On November 30th, 1995, she was arrested on a public bus in downtown Lima and accused of collaborating with the rebel group MRTA.
With a gun held to her head, a hooded military tribunal sentenced the longtime activist to life in prison for “treason against the fatherland.” Four-and-a half years later, due to international pressure, her sentence was vacated and she was retried by a civilian court which reduced her sentence to 20 years. Lori Berenson has consistently maintained her innocence.
In 2002, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights declared that neither of her trials complied with international standards and violated her rights to due process.
Because Perú refused to comply with the Commission’s recommendations, the Commission brought Lori Berenson’s case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. In 2004, the court–which was seen as one of her last avenues of appeal–upheld her imprisonment. A Peruvian judge on the court boasted how he had convinced his fellow justices to overturn the commission’s ruling
On the 10th anniversary of her arrest, Lori Berenson released a statement from prison. Her father, Mark Berenson, joined us in the studio yesterday to read the words of his jailed daughter Lori.
- Mark Berenson, reads Lori Berenson’s statement from prison.
Lori Berenson has been jailed in Peru for 10 years. She has 10 to go. She is scheduled for release in 2015.
AMY GOODMAN: On this tenth anniversary of her arrest, Lori Berenson has released a statement from her prison cell. Her father, Mark Berenson, came to our Firehouse studio yesterday to read the words of his jailed daughter, Lori.
MARK BERENSON: [reading Lori Berenson’s statement] My name is Lori Berenson. I am a New York born and raised political prisoner in Perú. I have spent many years in Central and South America, trying to contribute to the efforts of those who seek social justice for all. I continue this work from prison.
On November 30, 1995, I was pulled off of a public bus in Lima. Like thousands of Peruvians, I was detained by the anti-terrorist police, tried for treason by a hooded military tribunal under draconian anti-terrorism laws and condemned to life in prison.
This all occurred in the context of an internal conflict in Perú that began in the early 1980s with the armed insurgence of the Shining Path, and later the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.
When I was arrested, Peruvian President Fujimori made me a symbol for his anti-terrorist campaign. His ability to use the media for his own publicity purposes led to my case being very high profile.
Because of the tireless efforts of my family, friends and many others, the Fujimori regime was forced to retry me in a civilian court. In 2001, I was sentenced to 20 years for collaboration. In 2004, in light of the international anti-terrorism campaign in our post-9/11 world and under extreme pressure from Perú’s political class, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ratified my sentence.
The details of what happened to me are irrelevant in the broader picture of the thousands of Peruvians who have been killed, disappeared, tortured and detained during this internal conflict. Since history has always been re-written by those who have the upper-hand, the issue of subversion became the scapegoat for all of Perú’s problems.
In all parts of the world, symbolic culprits are used to obscure the root causes of social discontent, to distract attention and distort realities when any group of people question the existing order. The world order, especially in this era of globalized capitalism, is designed to benefit a powerful few at the expense of the majority of our world’s peoples. This system is unjust, immoral, terrifying and just plain insane. We must change it.
People all over the world are imprisoned today and suffering tremendous injustices for challenging this order. I express my solidarity with all of those prisoners, and in particular my admiration for those whose courage we can hear in the voice of Mumia Abu-Jamal, in the writings about Leonard Peltier, in the struggle for the liberation of Puerto Rico, and many others.
For prisoners, the struggle for basic dignity is a daily plight. Prisons are just a smaller version of the general system that operates in this world, and that is what is wrong. The desire to change it is why many of us are here in the first place. It is a worthy cause to be behind bars for.
AMY GOODMAN: The words of Lori Berenson, read by her father, Mark Berenson. Lori is in prison in Peru. She has served ten years, has another ten years to go. Scheduled for release in 2015, just shy of her 46th birthday, she would be released. You can go to our website at DemocracyNow.org, and there, you can click on the full hour — hour-and-a-half interview I did with Lori as the first journalist to get into her prison in Peru. I spoke with her a few years ago. Lori Berenson, in her own words. That’s DemocracyNow.org. Her website is FreeLori.org.