The following is a point-by-point rebuttal, by the Berensons, to statements
made by former U.S. Ambassador to Perú Dennis Jett in a February 27 Washington
Post op-ed piece.
Mr. Jett tries to make a liar out of Lori by erroneously stating "she
claimed she knew nothing about the MRTA" and follows this by falsely stating
three propositions as bulleted condemnations that do not hold up to
scrutiny. The fact is that during her courtroom trial Lori referred to the
MRTA as a revolutionary movement. Although she refused to condemn the MRTA
as terrorists, during her trial Lori did condemn all acts of terrorism
regardless of what group, organization, or persons committed them.
Mr. Jett's first bulleted condemnation alludes to Lori's work with the
FMLN in El Salvador. As mentioned in the courtroom trial, Lori spent four
years with the FMLN, working as an administrative assistant, secretary,
computer programmer, and translator during the peace process that resulted
in the end of a 12-year civil war and in the formation of a democratic
government in El Salvador. Testimony to this effect was provided to the
court from former FMLN leader and now Salvadoran Congressman Samuel Sanchez
Mr. Jett's second bulleted condemnation was that Lori "rented and lived
for nearly a year in a house that was an MRTA base and was filled with
weapons, explosives, and terrorists." As verified in the courtroom
accounts, the facts are that Lori and her Panamanian friend co-rented the La
Molina house in December 1994 and then, two months later, they sublet it to
MRTA leader Miguel Rincon whose identity was unknown to Lori. Lori moved to
an apartment in San Borja in mid August 1995, a month before Mr. Rincon
brought the militants to the La Molina house with their stock of weapons and
explosives. Security officials from the apartment building in San Borja
testified in the courtroom that Lori was a good tenant who lived in her
Mr. Jett's third bulleted condemnation, that Lori "was closely involved
with all the top leadership of the MRTA," is fallacious. Aside from Miguel
Rincon (whom she knew by a different name and did not know was an MRTA
leader), Lori never met any of the other leadership and there was no
evidence presented in the court to justify such an accusation. When Lori
was in Peru, MRTA leaders Victor Polay, Peter Cardenas, and Lucero Cumpa
were already in prison and Nestor Cerpa was in hiding, allegedly outside
Peru. Lori said she did not know that the few people she was friendly with
in the La Molina house were MRTA using false names and, except for Mr.
Rincon, none of the others were leaders.
Mr. Jett wrongly states that "The trial was broadcast on local television,
and few in Peru doubted its fairness." The fact is that the trial was only
at best shown sporadically on cable TV with outreach to less than 1% of the
Peruvian population - coverage was woefully incomplete and both Peruvian
print and broadcast media were typically biased. For example a perusal of
Peruvian media show full accounts of the prosecutor's closing remarks but no
coverage of the defense lawyer's summation. For five years the Peruvian
public was prejudiced against Lori by a state-run propaganda machine and by
a media completely controlled by Mr. Montesinos. Owing to years of living
in a repressive society, neither the Peruvian public nor, sadly, even
respected Peruvian jurists had ever experienced real justice with fairness
and due process and surely Mr. Jett should know that. For example,
judiciary, government, and even Peruvian human rights officials expressed no
concern that Lori began her public trial in a cage and continued with her
standing in front of the same cage, violating the presumption of innocence
required by Peruvian law and by the American Convention on Human Rights.
Mr. Jett states that in the military tribunal Lori's lawyer "argued she
was not a leader of the MRTA, just a collaborator." Mr. Jett knows full
well that the Peruvian attorney used the word "collaborator" to mean "social
association." The attorney said this in our presence to officials at the
U.S. Embassy in Lima early in 1996. The officials recorded this information
that should have been part of the record Mr. Jett would have familiarized
himself with upon his arrival as ambassador in Peru later that year.
Mr. Jett wants The Post readers to believe that others in the MRTA
testified against Lori. The fact is that during the civil trial only one
person (the former Panamanian friend who, in an effort to have a reduced
sentence) gave some conflicting testimony. But even he publicly stated that
he did not believe Lori was collaborating with the MRTA or that she knew
that the man to whom part of the large La Molina house was sublet had
actually been an MRTA leader. All the young persons who moved into the
house in September 1995, one month after Lori moved into her apartment in
San Borja, testified in this trial that they never met Lori before they were
arrested. The so-called evidence from the 1995-6 military tribunal was
tainted and illegal with much of the testimony taken from MRTA members under
duress of actual torture or of threats of torture and all this testimony was
recanted by every single witness during the investigative and public stages
of Lori's civilian trial.
Mr. Jett joins the Peruvian prosecutor in questioning Lori's press
credentials. The facts are that Lori was working as a freelance journalist
and held legitimate credentials from the Peruvian press association based on
letters of introduction from two U.S.-based publications. Lori was working
on projects dealing with women's rights, poverty, and decentralization.
Courtroom affidavits by the magazine editors confirmed this and the editors
also declared they were in contact with Lori about her assignments and
preliminary drafts of her articles. In the courtroom one witness, a
Congressional Aide dealing with the press, testified he knew Lori to be
working as a journalist. Testimony was also read from a leader of a women's
rights NGO whom Lori had interviewed in preparing her articles, dispelling
the theory that Lori was not pursuing journalistic interests.
In reference to the State Department briefing (transcription of February
19), the spokesman did not say Lori had due process, as Mr. Jett would have
The Post readers believe, instead he said that "The new trials corrected
some of the most egregious flaws in the military trial and addressed some of
the concerns that we have had about her military trial"- implying that other
egregious concerns were not met and there could not be real due process.
Mr. Jett said the parents and lawyers complained "about inhumane
treatment, physical abuse, threats, inadequate medical attention and a lack
of evidence." Mr. Jett failed to point out that numerous international
legal and human rights organizations - including The United Nations High
Commission on Human Rights, the OAS, WOLA, Amnesty International, and Human
Rights Watch: Americas -- have all independently voiced the same complaints.
The move to resolve Lori's case did not begin, as Mr. Jett wrongly
suggests, when Mr. Fujimori's power base began to crumble in August 2000.
It is known from a videotaped conversation between the now jailed former spy
chief Vladimiro Montesinos and the then Peruvian Foreign Minister Eduardo
Ferraro Costa that a move to oust Lori from Peru actually began on January
23, 1998 in statements showing absolutely no respect for the rule of law.
We were actually made directly aware of Peru's intent to seek resolution on
Lori's case in August 1999, more than a year before Mr. Fujimori finally
permitted such action.
Mr. Jett implies that Lori was involved with a terrorist organization "out
to attack our country or anything associated with it." As Lori stated in
the courtroom trial, she is against terrorist violence in all its forms.
Mr. Jett said Lori "was going on a hunger strike, along with jailed
terrorist leaders, and she used the same language and justification as they
did." Mr. Jett should know the hunger strike began in Lima on February 11
and spread to every maximum-security prison in Peru by February 18, the day
Lori joined approximately 1,000 political prisoners. These prisoners are
simply demanding improvement in conditions and treatment along with an
overall improvement in human rights and justice for all in Peru.
Mr. Jett's sad comparison of Lori with John Walker Lindh is only less
preposterous than Peruvian media comparisons of Lori with Osama bin Laden.