Peru police often wake jailed American - mother

Reuters -- 22 December 1995

by Jeanne King

NEW YORK (Reuter) - An American woman being held in Peru on charges she helped pro-Cuban guerrillas is frequently awakened by interrogators and has nothing to read in her cell, the woman's mother said Friday.

Rhoda Berenson, mother of Lori Berenson, told a news conference in New York on returning from an 11-day visit to Peru that her daughter was "incredibly strong" but feared the worst if she is convicted of treason by a military court.

Berenson, 26, was arrested three weeks ago and charged with "betrayal of the fatherland" for allegedly assisting members of the pro-Cuban Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) in a plot to attack Congress.

Berenson's mother said officials were using "various techniques" to get information from her daughter, a human rights activist who also was an accredited journalist with a Third World affairs magazine in Brooklyn, N.Y.

"They feed her phony information," said Berenson, a college physics professor. "They wake her in the middle of the night and have conversations with her. Or they wake her early in the morning. They use the good-cop, bad-cop routine."

She said her daughter had "nothing to read. She spends her time in her cell just thinking."

An officer at the Supreme Council of Military Justice said Tuesday that a panel of military judges would reach its verdict on Berenson next week.

Last week, a Peruvian lawyer for Berenson was quoted as saying the New York woman told authorities she had "collaborated" with the guerrillas, but this was disputed by her U.S. lawyer Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. attorney-general.

"We categorically deny that Lori admitted to collaboration or that she is guilty of anything. We maintain that Lori is innocent and her only crime is her commitment to human rights, peace and social justice," the statement said.

If convicted, the New York City woman faces a prison term of 30 years to life. If acquitted, she will probably be tried in civilian court on a charge of terrorism. Both charges carry similiar sentences.

Berenson said her daughter may have been duped by the MRTA into helping them by renting them a house. "My daughter is innocent," she said. "She is not guilty."