News from Lori's Parents

17 January 2001

This is day 1,876 of Lori's wrongful incarceration in Peru.

In this update:

President Clinton stands up for Lori

Thanks to all your efforts over these years -- the thousands upon thousands of telephone calls, emails, petitions, letters, and cards to the White House and to your Senators and Representatives last night President Clinton telephoned Peruvian President Paniagua to urge a good resolution to Lori's case. This was a follow up on a call President Clinton made to President Paniagua in late November.

As President Clinton prepares to leave office this week we want to thank him for calling President Paniagua on Lori's behalf. Unfortunately, President Clinton's calls came at a time of political instablility in Peru making it difficult for him to secure Lori's freedom. President Paniagua, a man of principle, does not want to interfere with the Peruvian judicial process. Under normal circumstances, we could not disagree. But these are not normal circumstances and he should interfere to prevent further injustice to Lori. Since Peru has already violated several international laws and its own constitution in Lori's case and since Peru is incapable of giving Lori a fair trial, Mr. Paniagua should intervene to prevent an ongoing injustice. We would not suggest that he do anything undemocratic. It is imperative that his government do all in its power to right the wrongs of the discredited Fujimori regime. Among these is the wrongful incarceration of Lori Berenson who was a victim of Alberto Fujimori's lies, deceits and dirty tricks for almost five years.

Last minute Congressional efforts on Lori's behalf

We want to thank Senator Patrick Leahy who, in one day last week, sponsored a letter to President Clinton signed by 17 Senate colleagues (Senators Ted Stevens, Chris Dodd, Arlen Specter, Joe Lieberman, Jim Jeffords, Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, John Breaux, Paul Sarbanes, Barbara Mikulski, Jack Reed, Bob Torricelli, Barbara Boxer, Tom Harkin, Jeff Bingaman, Patty Murray, and Richard Durbin) urging one final time that Lori must be protected from falling into the crevice of Peruvian injustice. We also want to thank Representatives Maxine Waters, Jim McGovern, Carolyn Maloney, Joe Moakley, and Ben Gilman for their continued strong support for Lori in these final days of the Clinton administration.

Peruvian prosecutor charges Lori with collaboration

On Monday January 15 Peruvian Prosecutor Maria Peralta charged Lori with collaboration, concluding four and a half months of investigation.

Certainly we are very disappointed, although not surprised, with the prosecutor's decision to move the trial forward. Lori is innocent and she should be sent home. She has already spent more than five years wrongfully incarcerated, having been maligned and slandered by the disgraced dictatorial regime of Alberto Fujimori who used her for his own political gains.

Considering that we have received full reports during the investigative phase of the trial, it seems that the decision by the prosecutor to proceed to the public phase of the trial is unwarranted. In fact, the prosecutor concurred with the Supreme Military Council's finding last August that Lori was not a leader of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movment (MRTA) and, additionally, the prosecutor concluded that Lori was neither an active participant nor even a member of that group corroborating what Lori has always said. We know there can be no evidence that Lori is guilty of any crimes. A careful review of the records would clearly indicate that there is no basis for going forward with this trial. And we hope that the Superior Court will make such a review.

We are very concerned because the Civilian Terrorism Court under the new Peruvian government is still using the same anti-terrorism laws and procedures developed under the Fujimori regime that have been criticized internationally as failing to provide openness, fairness, and due process. Jose Miguel Vivanco, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch: Americas, says that under the existing laws the definition of terrorism is so broad and so vague that almost any activity could qualify as terrorist.

Rhoda in Peru

Rhoda will be visiting with Lori today (Wednesday) and Saturday. She will be meeting with Lori's lawyer to learn more about what has happened and what is supposed to happen, including a time-table. She also will be meeting with Ambassador John Hamilton regarding the latest decision from the prosecutor to move Lori's trial forward on charges of collaboration.

Next steps

Should Lori not obtain her freedom by January 20, I have been reassured that the Bush transition team will be thoroughly briefed by the Clinton administration on Lori's case. The wrongful incarceration of an American citizen is a bipartisan issue and we will immediately seek the support of President Bush and his administration to take timely action on Lori's behalf. And we will need your continued help to achieve this.

- Rhoda and Mark Berenson