News from Lori's Parents

31 October 2001

In this update:

Urgent Reminder: Please help in "religious letter" campaign

We are two weeks into our "religious letter signing" campaign and we need your help.

Please download the letter and bring it to religious leaders whom you know for signature. Alternatively, some of you may prefer to copy the letter shown below into your word processor where you can reformat it and change the font if you desire.

Also provided below and on the homepage of our website is a "cover" letter about Lori and her case that you might find useful as an introduction when speaking to your religious leaders. We thank Rochester Regional Coordinators Arnie Matlin and Mike Connelly for developing this. Please feel free to download this letter, sign it, and give it, along with the campaign letter, to the religious leaders from whom you are requesting signatures.

Please send the signed letters to The Committee to Free Lori Berenson, 110 Maryland Avenue NE, Suite 112, Washington, DC 20002.

Our goal is to have a religious delegation bring the packet of letters to Peruvian President Toledo to commemorate the sixth anniversary of Lori's wrongful incarceration.

Many thanks for your help.

Copy of the letter requesting religious leader signatures

His Excellency Dr. Alejandro Toledo
President of the Republic of Perú
Palacio de Gobierno
Lima, Perú

Dear President Toledo:

We, members of religious communities of various faiths, want to wish you much success as President of Perú. We have confidence that under your leadership, democratic institutions that were dismantled by the Fujimori-Montesinos government will be restored and that the social injustices that have plagued the Peruvian people will be eradicated.

We are writing to ask your consideration for the release of Lori Berenson. She has told those of us who have met her and those of us who have corresponded with her that she is innocent of the charges and we do not feel that her recent civilian trial proved otherwise. She is a woman with deep concern for the plight of the poor in Perú and elsewhere. Both at her trial and in recent interviews she has expressed her condemnation of terrorism and her deep concern for those who have suffered directly and indirectly under terrorist acts. She speaks of her love for the people of Perú, not violence and hate.

We are deeply concerned that her recent civilian trial did not provide Ms. Berenson with the full guarantees of due process as required by international law and neither was there protection from double jeopardy. Lori Berenson has suffered unjustly for nearly six years, used by the Fujimori-Montesinos government to further their own political gains, and the harsh imprisonment has taken its toll on her well-being.

It is a matter of spiritual concern to us that Ms. Berenson was unjustly imprisoned for nearly three years in Yanamayo with a life sentence, which was later rescinded because the charges of treason were unfounded and the circumstances betrayed the religious and humanistic traditions of your great nation. As religious leaders, we ask for your good will and her release.



Printed Name:_________________________________________________________

Title and Affiliation:____________________________________________________

Possible cover letter for use in obtaining signatures from religious leaders


I am a supporter of Lori Berenson, a U.S. citizen who has been imprisoned in Perú since November 1995. I ask you to sign the enclosed letter, appealing to the conscience and good will of Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo to pardon her.

In January 1996, Lori Berenson was sentenced to life imprisonment for "treason" after a "secret trial" by a military tribunal of hooded judges. Lori had no opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and no opportunity to defend herself. After conviction, Lori was sent to the infamous Yanamayo prison. This barbaric penitentiary is located in a remote region of the Peruvian Andes. Yanamayo is 12,700 feet about sea level. The prisoners have no real protection against the brutally cold weather. Because of the cold, the extreme altitude, the poor food, the lack of exercise, and the lack of appropriate medical care, Lori now suffers from serious and probably permanent medical problems.

Lori's military "trial" was carried out during the regime of the notoriously corrupt Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori. Lori's prosecution and persecution were directed by Vladimiro Montesinos, special advisor to President Fujimori and de facto head of Perú's National Intelligence Service. Both men are now under indictment in Perú for extremely serious crimes, including those involving human rights violations.

In August 2000 Lori's life sentence was overturned. Instead of being released, however, she was kept in custody, tried again, convicted, and sentenced to 20 years in prison for "collaboration." This "re-trial" is particularly onerous and painful because the government in Perú is now in a stage of hopeful transition away from the arbitrary and malicious Fujimori regime. At present, the Peruvian government, under President Alejandro Toledo, appears to be in the hands of those striving for reform and greater democratization. However, Lori's second trial took place during the administration of interim President Valentin Paniagua, also a reform-minded man who unfortunately chose not to sufficiently challenge the corrupt judiciary. Although Lori's second trial lasted months instead of minutes, the same tainted evidence was used to reconvict her by the same unreformed judiciary. (So much for due process and protection against double jeopardy.)

Lori Berenson is a woman whose various involvements in Latin America were motivated by her concern for social justice and her compassion for the poor. Lori's humanitarian sympathies made her the target of an oppressive right-wing government. The Peruvian regime carefully manipulated the media so that Lori was presented to Peruvians as a wild-eyed gringa plotting against their government. Lori has steadfastly insisted on her innocence, and the Peruvian government has never presented a shred of evidence that would implicate her in a crime. Those of us who have been involved with Lori's case for a long time believe in her innocence. I am committed to her cause because she has been deprived of freedom without anything resembling due process.

I think that the present government in Perú is struggling towards a better future with better governance. I ask your help in appealing to the better nature of this government and of President Toledo by joining other religious leaders who are signing this appeal.

Lori's parents hope to gather thousands of signed appeals from religious leaders to present to President Toledo on November 30th, the sixth anniversary of Lori's arrest. Because of this time constraint, I ask you to sign and return this appeal as quickly as possible to me or directly to the Committee to Free Lori Berenson, 110 Maryland Avenue NE, Suite 112, Washington, DC 20002.

Thank you for your care and concern for an American prisoner of conscience who has suffered for six years in Peruvian jails.


- Rhoda and Mark Berenson