News from Lori's Parents

8 April 2001

In this update:

Lori awaits 4th week of testimony

Last Thursday, Lori gave testimony for 3.5 hours. In total, Lori has answered questions for more than 17 hours in a total of seven sessions since the open hearings began on March 20, always in a calm, polite, self-assured manner.

This coming week, hearings will be held Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. It is believed that she will finish the rounds of questioning from the case prosecutor, the three judges, the special government prosecutor, and her own lawyer. In addition, it is anticipated that Lori will be asked to answer questions along with Pacifico Castrellon, a Panamanian who was also arrested on November 30, 1995.

Life for us in Perú has been very hectic these days. We had hoped to provide full translations of the proceedings but each session has lasted several hours and this is much too difficult. Human rights observers and legal experts who have attended the hearings will be making reports on the numerous due process violations that have been observed and about the lack of fairness in this trial.

Take a stand for Lori

The Digital Freedom Network has set up a way for people to email letters to President Bush and President Paniagua, urging the two heads of state to secure Lori's release. Please visit their site and send the sample letter or rewrite it to be your own. Please encourage others to also send letters for Lori this week.

Newspaper accounts: What has Lori really said? What has Lori really done?

The Peruvian press has generally been negative because it has failed to consider the presumption of innocence. The international press has been more accurate, but space limitations force them to focus on only a few points. As in any newspaper article, statements and quotations are truncated and this can distort the context.

For example, on Wednesday, Chief Judge Ibazeta pressed Lori "to assume some responsibility by omission or commission." Lori replied, "there may have been a peripheral, unintentional responsibility. But that does not make me guilty of the charges against me." Unfortunately, the newspapers excluded the second sentence of the quote.

In addition, a New York Times article opined Lori as "sometimes flashing a defiant smile." Others could argue that her smiles have been pleasant, polite,and a demonstration of her confidence in the truth.

Ironically, when Lori smiles she is called defiant; when she does not smile she is thought of as cool and calculating; and when she ponders a question she is said to be nervous. The truth is that she has answered more than 17 hours of questions with poise, grace, and dignity -- as will be apparent to all who view the tapes of these proceedings. The hearings are being broadcast live on cable TV in Perú.

Lori urges Perú to establish a truth commission

A highlight to Thursday's session that was not adequately reported in the press was Lori's dissertation on the importance of a Truth Commission for Perú. When responding to questions of her perceived differences between "revolutionary movements" and "terrorist organizations," she said it was Perú's responsibility to form a Truth Commission composed of respected neutral leaders who could evaluate 20 years of actions by the MRTA, Shining Path, the Peruvian military and police, the SIN, and other organizations and individuals to determine what should be considered as terrorist and what should not. Lori opined that in Perú today the word "terrorism" is used much too loosely as a label for any activity not liked, including written articles or stated opinions or beliefs. This is why Lori won't denounce anyone -- it is for the Truth Commission, not for her, to make such statements. Besides, this is not relevant to whether or not she committed a crime. Lori further stated that only through a Truth Commission that has the support of the Peruvian people can there be resolution and reconciliation for past activities in this country.

Judge Marcos Ibazeta then took the microphone from Judge Eliana Araujo, interrupted the proceedings, and said to Lori that although this was not related to her trial, he was particularly interested in learning more and hearing her views on truth commissions. He spent more than 15 minutes asking Lori questions about her experience with El Salvador's Truth Commission and her opinions on the effectiveness of other such commissions throughout Latin America.

Cultural differences

From Lori's 17 plus hours of testimony it is clear that there are many cultural differences that have hampered an understanding of her. The Peruvian judges felt that it was strange that Lori, as a 17-year old girl, would leave home for college and travel abroad. In Perú it is very common for a young woman, or even a young man, to stay at home with their parents until they are married. There was also some speculation about Lori's informal relationships with men, and the judges questioned whether or not Lori could be friends with a man and not have romantic relations with him. Neither the judges nor the public seem to understand why a middle-class US citizen would want to sacrifice her comfortable lifestyle to travel to Perú to help the poor.

In addition, the judges were not aware that Lori was but one of thousands of US citizens who have worked to help those in need around the world.

We are concerned that not only do the judges not understand, but that they do not want to understand.

- Rhoda and Mark Berenson