Civilian trials for terrorism-related cases in Peru

The following are the procedures for terrorism-related cases in the Peruvian civilian courts as they were explained to the Berenson family.

Procedures for terrorism-related cases in the Peruvian civilian courts consists of three phases. In Peru all three phases constitute what is termed "the trial" although only phase two takes place in a courtroom and is open to the public.

The first phase normally lasts 30 days with a possible extension for an additional 20 days. During this time, an "instructional" prosecutor and an "instructional" judge take testimony from the defendant and from witnesses. Testimony is taken in the presence of this prosecutor and judge and the defense lawyer, all of whom can ask questions. The judge can rule on points of law.

This testimony is accumulated in a "file" (which is not made public) and submitted by the "instructional" prosecutor along with his/her recommendations to the President of the Terrorism Court. It is also possible for the "instructional" prosecutor to request that the President of the court allow additional time to collect more testimony.

Once recommendations are made, the Terrorism Court has up to 15 days to read the "file" and the recommendations and decide if there is sufficient evidence to move the case forward. If the decision is "yes," the second phase-- the "oral" phase - starts immediately in a courtroom setting at the prison. There are three judges in this phase but no jury. A major portion of this "oral" phase is publicly questioning the defendant. The President of the Terrorism Court acts as chief judge and decides which witnesses to call, if any, presumably based on recommendations from the prosecution and defense. Those witnesses who have given testimony in the first phase of the "trial" need not be called as witnesses in the "oral" phase but their testimony can be used as evidence even if they are not called.

The "oral" phase usually lasts at most two weeks. At the end of the "oral" phase the Terrorism Court renders a decision of innocence or guilt (and the length of sentence).

The third phase is an appeal to the Supreme Court. If the defendant is found guilty, she would appeal. If she is found innocent, the prosecution would appeal.

Lori's "trial"

The first phase of Lori's "trial" started on August 28, immediately following the nullification of her verdict in the military courts. The judge and prosecutor started gathering testimony even before Lori was moved to Lima and before she hired a lawyer. Since hiring the lawyer, Lori has given her testimony and her lawyer has been present when other witnesses testified. So far, the witnesses interviewed have been MRTA prisoners whom the prosecutor and judge want to link to Lori.

At the end of 30 days, a 20-day extension was granted. On October 30, the "instructional" prosecutor, Dra. Maria Peralta, requested a further 30-day extension to obtain more testimony in an attempt to strengthen her case.