News from Lori's Parents
7 May 1997In this update:
Fact Sheet about Lori
The following information is intended to clarify some misconceptions heard in the media or reported in the press:
Fact: Lori has always DENIED membership in the MRTA.
After Lori's "presentation" to the press in January 1996, Peruvian officials declared that she admitted in her statement that she was a member of the MRTA. A reading of her statement will show that she never admitted any such thing. In addition, she told the US Department of State that she is not a member of the MRTA and she has continued to deny any such affiliation. Unfortunately, the press printed the declarations released by Peruvian officials as if they were the truth and this misinformation has become part of the "official Lori story" as repeated in the media.
Fact: Lori should not ask to transfer to a US Prison.
Several people have suggested that it is possible for Lori to transfer to a US prison to serve her sentence. While it is true that a treaty between the US and Perú exists that would enable such a transfer, use of this treaty is not appropriate for Lori. It is designed for those who are guilty and wish to serve their sentences in the US. It is not designed for use by Lori who maintains her innocence and has evidence to prove it. Because there are many misconceptions about such a transfer, we call your attention to the following information which has been provided to us by the US Department of Justice and verified by the US Department of State at the highest levels.
- Lori would have to initiate the use of the treaty and by doing so she would forfeit the right to challenge the legality of her conviction. Whereas every other prisoner in the US can seek release if it can be proven that their constitutional rights were violated, or they are innocent, Lori would have no such recourse.
- The US government would be bound by the treaty to hold Lori in its prison for a very long time, probably life. The length of the sentence would be based solely on Perú's claim that she is guilty of treason and aggravated terrorism. The fact that Lori was never given due process would not be taken into consideration in determining the length of her sentence. No US official will be able to pardon her or offer parole.
Clearly, the transfer treaty should never be used where a prisoner challenges the legality of a trial, or wants to prove her innocence. Although many Americans imagine that a transfer will result in Lori being released, the US government has assured us that it will never result in anything of the sort. Unfortunately, Lori's refusal to transfer has been wrongly interpreted as an unwillingness to return to the US when, in fact, it is an unwillingness to admit guilt and spend her life in a US prison when she knows she is innocent.
Fact: Lori Wants Help for a Fair Trial or Her Release.
For a brief time, some members of the media, members of Congress and ordinary citizens had been incorrectly informed by the Department of State that Lori did not want any help. It is not clear how this misunderstanding arose but quite to the contrary Lori has specifically requested help from the Congress in a letter that she wrote last year. Moreover she insists that she is innocent and wants whatever help possible (from the public, human rights groups, government officials, religious organizations,...) to get a fair trial in an open court so that she can clear her name and come home to the United States. If Perú is unwilling to grant her a fair trial, Lori believes Perú should release her to the United States in freedom.
On May 1st the Berensons appeared before a briefing of the Human Rights Congressional Caucus chaired by Representative John Edward Porter (Illinois). They presented their report "The Peruvian Government's 39 Violations to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners" to members of the Congress, the US Department of State, human rights groups, and representatives of the Peruvian government. This segment was taped by Telenoticias and portions were shown on Peruvian TV that evening.
Today marks the completion of 75 weeks of Lori's wrongful incarceration under horrendous, inhumane conditions. As of this date, visits to prisoners who are members of the MRTA or, like Lori, who were falsely accused of being members of that organization, are still not permitted.
Please write to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and ask others to do the same. We will be meeting with members of the Department of State shortly and letters calling on our government to urge Perú to give Lori an open trial in a civilian court at this time are important.
With continued appreciation for all your efforts- Rhoda and Mark Berenson