News from Lori's Parents

23 May 2001

In this update:

Testimony is completed and trial reaches summation stage

Yesterday, the beginning of the tenth week of the trial, 29 testimonial statements were read into the court records from a variety of "witnesses" Peruvian government officials, Peruvian Congressmen, DINCOTE Anti-terrorism Police officials, prison officials, landlords, magazine editors, and others. From this testimony, the following was established:

Testimony from the editors and Peruvian officials indicated Lori had legitimate press credentials from two U.S. based magazines, Third World Viewpoint and Modern Times (based at Columbia University). She used these to apply for and receive appropriate press credentials from the Peruvian government. This dispels the charge that Lori had false credentials.

Testimony from two Peruvian Congressmen (in the party of disgraced ex-President Alberto Fujimori), Dennis Vargas Marin and Anselmo Revela, shows Lori conducted legitimate interviews with them on subjects of mutual concern for the articles she was researching poverty in Perú and government decentralization policy (Vargas Marin) and human rights, the economy, and government decentralization policy (Revela).

Testimony on the receipts from various purchases made by Lori indicates that she bought a computer, software, cellular phone, beeper, and other items for her own use and did not supply others with such equipment dispelling the charge against her.

Testimony from Peruvian government officials based on her passport and other immigration service documents indicates the records of Lori's travels during the 13-month period November 1994 through November 1995 the dates she first went to Perú until she was arrested. The Special Prosecutor Mario Cavagnaro, a fanatic who has publicly made derogatory statements against Rhoda and Mark on different occasions, is absurdly trying to show Lori was using two different identities when all the records indicate her name was listed as Lori Berenson Mejia (her name from her brief marriage) or Lori Berenson Kobeloff (Rhoda's maiden name), depending on what the particular country's immigration form requested.


Outrageous "testimony" from DINCOTE Anti-terrorism Police officials corroborated the false public statement of government witness Pacifico Castrellon who said last month that DINCOTE did not offer him special treatment and a reduced sentence for his "cooperation/fabrication" against Lori and others. On record in December 1995 is Castrellon's statement that he expects a reduced sentence for his "repentance and cooperation." The Panamanian got a 30-year sentence instead of life, but he was placed in a minimum security prison in Lima rather than in a maximum security prison in Yanamayo like Lori and others and he had many "benefits" for his "cooperation." We point out that, during those early days, DINCOTE Colonel Juan Gonzalez Sandoval, known as the "jackal," also offered Lori an opportunity to "cooperate and repent" for better prison conditions and a shorter sentence.

So-called "testimony" from former Chorrillos Prison Comandante Camacho and some of his subordinates indicating Lori's "bad behavior" was read into the court record. Chief Judge Ibazeta incomprehensibly said on the first day of the trial that one's behavior inside prison is an indication and "legitimate evidence" of having committed the crimes charged more than five years ago. Lori had argued that first day that she was never reprimanded by prison officials for her behavior, as is required by Peruvian law. For the record, Comandante Camacho was "less than honest" in a meeting with Mark last November about "misplaced mail" and he also refused to permit a Peruvian rabbi to make regular religious visits to Lori because she was the only prisoner of Jewish birth. He considered it would be "special treatment." Please draw your own conclusions about this officer.

Convicting the innocent in Perú

Although we are certain that the Peruvian government has not and cannot prove Lori guilty, she expects to be convicted in a judicial system considered by Human Rights Watch: Americas to be one of the two worst in the Western Hemisphere. Although the transitional Peruvian government has made great strides toward democracy and is in the process of holding extraordinarily clean presidential elections, there has been no real change in the internationally condemned legal system dealing with terrorism-related cases.

Peruvian law allows for "criteria of conscience," an opportunity for the three-judge panel to rule that they "believe" Lori is guilty even though there is no evidence to prove it. They can make their decision based on her demeanor, her beliefs, and circumstantial coincidences. Incredulously, this ruling is in conflict with other Peruvian law which says that doubt must favor the accused. This is much more insidious than the old Napoleonic legal system which states that the accused must prove his/her innocence rather than the government having to prove guilt. In order to comply with the American Convention on Human Rights and to participate in the legal system of the OAS, Peruvian law has had to be altered so that the government must prove guilt rather than the accused proving innocence. However, the public mindset has not adopted this legal and fundamental human rights principle and the Peruvian media has always taken the position that Lori has to prove her innocence in the public's eye.

New York Times article on interview with Lori

On Monday, May 21, New York Times reporter Clifford Krauss wrote an article based on his lengthy interview with Lori. The article portrays Lori in human terms and indicates her honesty, her realistic sense of expectations, and the strength of her character and convictions. The article also points out what Lori is up against. Because Lori tries to be cheerful and adapt to her awful situation by looking on the positive side of things, Clifford Krauss indicates that Peruvian officials say "her bright disposition is part of being a disciplined, hardened cadre of the Tupac Amaru [MRTA]."

We were disappointed that the article left unchallenged some of the comments on the circumstances from which Perú is attempting to build its case, comments made known to Mr. Krauss and reported in our recent Updates. For example, the article fails to mention that early on Pacifico and Lori had sublet the top two floors of the enormous four-level La Molina house to an engineer named Tizoc Ruiz who turned out to be MRTA leader Miguel Rincon and that in August 1995 Lori had moved to an apartment in the district of San Borja -- before the MRTA militants were brought to the house by Rincon and Castrellon. The La Molina house, in excess of 4,200 square feet, with different levels and wings, now has been converted into a school without altering its outside structure. Interestingly, the government's main witness, architect Pacifico Castrellon, testified that the structure of the house was such that even someone on the third floor would not likely have heard those on the fourth floor. In addition, the MRTA militants were clandestine they were not "screaming" and were never seen by the neighbors even though they were living in the house for about three months. From testimony presented, they apparently did not leave the fourth floor or at least not when there were visitors.

The article does quote one of Chief Judge Ibazeta's prejudicial statements against Lori early in the trial, where he wrongly took the role of prosecutor and inappropriately drew conclusions while playing to the Peruvian media during his so far unsuccessful bid to be elected Ombudsman of Perú.

Summary statements to be made in court

Tomorrow, the 26th public hearing, the Prosecutor Carlos Navas, the Special Prosecutor Mario Cavagnaro, and Lori's lawyer Jose Luis Sandoval are each expected to give closing summary statements.

- Rhoda and Mark Berenson