News from Lori's Parents

12 April 2001

In this update:

End of week four in Lori's public hearing

The fourth week of Lori's trial has ended. Lori was questioned by the three judges on Monday and by the special prosecutor and her own attorney, Jose Sandoval, on Tuesday. This concluded more than twenty-one hours of public interrogation over nine sessions. In response to questions from her lawyer, she one-by-one emphatically refuted each of the charges against her.

On Tuesday, and again on Wednesday, Chief Judge Ibazeta questioned Pacifico Castrellon, a Panamanian also arrested on Nov. 30,1995. Almost all of the accusations against Lori come from Castrellon. Last week, Mr. Sandoval read into the record a statement attached to Castrellon's testimony in 1995 in which Castrellon stated that he had given that testimony in hope of receiving a lighter sentence. Because of this, Lori's lawyer asked that all of Castrellon's testimony be thrown out. Castrellon, who soon will receive a civilian retrial possibly with the same judges, might believe that he can benefit by falsely implicating Lori. Judge Ibazeta denied Mr. Sandoval's motion to throw out this testimony.

Problems in the court

It is difficult for us to view Judge Ibazeta as impartial. On Tuesday he interrogated Lori very aggressively, even shouting at her. He then questioned Castrellon quietly and respectfully. We see a similar attitude on the part of the Peruvian press. Castrellon has repented and apologized whereas Lori refused to repent or apologize for something she has not done. In Peru this makes Castrellon's testimony more acceptable than Lori's, even if it is not more believable.

The prosecution continues to introduce evidence that is irrelevant and/or false. On Tuesday Lori had to counter a document from the prison director describing misbehavior on March 17, 2001. Not only would this not be relevant to her current trial for accused actions committed in 1995, it was also totally false.

The document claims that Lori was chanting with other prisoners on that date. Lori can certify she was on kitchen duty all day except for a few hours spent with Rhoda who was visiting. In addition, if there had been such misbehavior there would have been an official report with a response from Lori and no such report exists because the entire episode was fabricated. Such so-called evidence is introduced to fuel the press. Even the New York Times made reference to this document when it was introduced last week. The Times did not mention its irrelevance or question its validity.

Judge Ibazeta also questioned Lori's interest in the music of the Chilean songwriter Victor Jara, a known socialist. Lori answered that she was being questioned once again about her beliefs and opinions. She has repeatedly pointed out that she is being tried for her beliefs and not for any wrongful acts.

Special Prosecutor questions the validity of Lori's bank records

In 1995 Peruvian police found a bank statement in Lori's apartment. They claimed that the money in the account must have come from the MRTA. In reality, bank records showed that the money had come from a trust fund set up for Lori in the 1980s. Rhoda submitted these bank records to the court but Special Prosecutor (Procurador) Mario Cavagnaro objected claiming that Rhoda had reason to falsify records in order to help her daughter. Judge Ibazeta reserved decision on whether or not to admit these documents.

Lori brings criminal charges against Special Prosecutor

In recent interviews, General (retired) Juan Gonzales, stated that when he led the investigation of Lori in 1995 he secretly videotaped her when she met privately with her lawyer. He also said that Special Prosecutor Mario Cavagnaro knew about the taping. The Peruvian Penal Code provides for the right of privacy between lawyer and client. Lori has submitted a denuncia asking the Peruvian Attorney General to bring criminal charges against Gonzales for violating the Penal Code and against Cavagnaro for obstruction of justice for not reporting these violations after he learned of them.

More media errors

The Associated Press released an article stating that prosecutors claimed Lori's handwriting was on a seating plan of the Peruvian Congress. This is the same seating plan that was discussed in articles in 1995-96. At that time it was described as an innocuous simple indication of where congressional representatives sat, information available from Peruvian TV and newspapers. Lori once again denied that neither this document nor the handwriting on it was hers. The US press recycled the AP article, with headlines like Lori denies handwriting on plans to attack the Peruvian Congress, leading readers to believe that Lori was connected to an elaborate attack plan. No such plan even exists.

President Jimmy Carter phones the Berensons

Former President Jimmy Carter was in Peru to monitor the April 8 elections (see below). On April 9 he telephoned us. He regretted that his tight schedule precluded him from meeting with Lori or us. He asked us to send Lori his and his wife Rosalynn's best wishes. He urged that we keep him and the Carter Center for Human Rights abreast of the court proceedings.

Family visits

Lori's Aunt Judy, whom she hadn't seen since before her arrest, visited on her on Saturday, April 7. On Sunday, she saw her Uncle Ken, whom she had seen only once in these five and a half years. Needless to say, Lori was thrilled with the visits, especially during these stressful times.

Peruvian elections

Because no presidential candidate received a majority, there will be a runoff, most probably on May 20, between Alejandro Toledo and Alan Garcia. There was also an election for congress and it appears that members of former President Fujimori's party won only a handful of the 120 seats.

- Rhoda and Mark Berenson