News from Lori's Parents

25 May 2002

In this update:

"Webby" update

Many have written saying they are having some trouble with the instructions for voting for "The Committee to Free Lori Berenson" website in the Webby competition. To facilitate the process we have prepared an outline of voting steps. Please click and this will help you with the process.

If you haven't voted please do so now, and ask friends and others to do so also. Voting ends June 7.

Request for action: Seek immediate humanitarian release of Pilar Hinojosa

Lori asks all of you to help secure the immediate humanitarian release of Pilar Hinojosa, a women that has been brutally treated and abused in Peruvian prisons for ten years. Lori lived in the same cellblock with Pilar for 15 months in Chorrillos and is very concerned about Pilar's failing health. Lori has petitioned the international human rights community on her behalf and asks you to petition the government of Perú directly on this matter.

Pilar has been hospitalized in Lima since late April, having undergone two of three scheduled delicate and very serious operations on her spine to repair damage that occurred as a result of being brutally thrown down a flight of stairs by military police and prison guards at Chorrillos in 1999. Peruvian medical specialists told her that due to her delicate condition there is a risk that she could be permanently paralyzed or further incapacitated.

Pilar Hinojosa, 36 years-old, has spent the last ten years of her life behind bars in Santa Monica Maximum Security Women's Prison in Chorrillos (Lima). Pilar, a woman from one of Lima's numerous shantytowns was studying education at the "La Cantuta" national university and organizing religious base communities when she was brutally detained in 1992. In what would soon become the standard procedure, hooded judges summarily tried Pilar who never benefited from legal counsel. Accused of collaboration with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), Pilar received a sentence of 20-years imprisonment.

During her May 1992 detention, Peruvian military consistently physically and emotionally tortured Pilar, then six- months pregnant. Her conviction in June 1992 by a hooded civilian court was one of thousands under the Fujimori-Montesinos regime's internationally condemned anti-terrorism legislation. President Fujimori personally laid the groundwork for this legislation one month after his April 1992 self-coup. Pilar was tried the month after the first Emergency Executive Decree of this vast draconian legislation was instituted and hooded judges in a summary court procedure sentenced her based on "criteria of conscience," a judge's "belief of guilt" although there is no evidence.

A mere two weeks after Perú's military had extra-judicially assassinated dozens of prisoners in Canto Grande penitentiary (Lima), Pilar arrived at Santa Monica Maximum Security Women's Prison in Chorrillos (Lima) where she has lived for the past ten years.

When interviewed by Lori for a journal article, Pilar explained some of the prison conditions that she endured during the 1990s. She states: "For several months there was a 24-hour lock-up in cells (6.5 ft. by 9 ft.) built for two, but occupied by five or six. We could not speak between cells. Everything was prohibited: books, paper, pens, work materials, toiletries, food other than our meager unhygienic rations - nothing. The diet consisted of tea and bread in the morning, rice and potatoes in the afternoon, tea at night. Malnourishment took its toll. I was pregnant and had lost my amniotic fluid twice during detention in DINCOTE [National Directorate Against Terrorism]." (See Pilar Hinojosa Tellez, in Lori Berenson, "No Singing, No Laughing, No Sound," Index on Censorship, July 2001, Vol. 30, No. 3, pp. 212-217).

Explaining her son's first year, she narrates: "Luckily, my son Camilo survived and was born by Caesarean section. I was taken from the hospital before the doctors discharged me. In Chorrillos, my stitches were removed and the wound became infected. Antibiotics and malnutrition diminished my ability to lactate." At that time, prison officials pressured all nursing mothers by removing the boiled water the women were given to feed their babies. One year after giving birth, Pilar "decided" to put her son in his grandmother's care.

Recently, Pilar told a friend, "They can open our cell doors and grant us yard time now, but ten years of the abusive closed regime has already taken its toll on us."

Pilar's medical problems, a consequence of her torture and sustained malnutrition, were exacerbated in 1999 after members of the national police and prison guards brutally threw her down a flight of stairs during a transfer to another pavilion. Owing to the injuries to her spinal cord, she has been in severe pain and often totally incapacitated ever since, forced to remain in bed for weeks at a time.

During nearly all of her ten-year detention, Peruvian officials failed to provide the attention necessary for her medical needs in clear violation of all international standards on the rights of incarcerated persons. Various prison functionaries and authorities expressed that medical attention would be "facilitated" if Pilar repented and renounced her political beliefs. She continually refused to submit to this obvious blackmail.

However, as a result of much pressure, including support from Catholic and Protestant religious workers, Pilar was finally allowed to be examined by a medical specialist in November 2001. Thus, after years of constant debilitating pain and frequent incapacitation that forced her to bed rest for weeks at a time, Pilar was diagnosed with six disc hernias and additional spinal injuries. Three serious and delicate surgical procedures were prescribed. The Catholic Church and the International Red Cross are funding the first two operations and private funds were raised for the third. A human rights organization, Rights Action, has been instrumental in documenting and translating much needed information on Pilar's case and obtaining her medical records.

In late April 2002, Pilar was taken to the Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Neurologicas Santo Toribio Hospital in the Barrios Altos section of Lima for the first of three (two of which require prosthesis implantations) needed operations that aim to repair her spine. Peruvian specialists stated that due to her delicate medical condition, there is a risk that she could be permanently paralyzed or further incapacitated.

Please help obtain Pilar's release. Please draft respectful letters to Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, National Penitentiary Institute President Javier Bustamante, and President of the National Pardon Commission Carlos Zamorano - asking that Pilar Hinojosa Tellez be immediately released on humanitarian grounds.


Dr. Alejandro Toledo
President of the Republic of Perú
Embassy of Perú
1700 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20036

Dr. Javier Bustamante
President of INPE - National Penitentiary Institute
Ministry of Justice
Jr. Carabaya N 456
Lima, Perú

Dr. Carlos Zamorano
President of National Pardon Commission
Ministry of Justice
Scipion Llona 350
Lima, Perú

The death of Stephan Jay Gould - C.F.L.B. Advisory Board member

The Committee to Free Lori Berenson (C.F.L.B.) is deeply saddened by the passing of Professor Stephen Jay Gould, the distinguished evolutionary theorist and paleontologist at Harvard University whose diversified background and interests in science, literature, language, music, sports, and human rights place him among the great minds of the twentieth and twenty -first centuries. He was a true Renaissance man. And although he will long be remembered for his numerous accomplishments and scientific advancements, his death at age 60 is surely premature.

Professor Stephen Jay Gould reached out to us early in Lori's arrest and immediately accepted our request to serve on the Advisory Board of The Committee to Free Lori Berenson when the Committee was formed in January 1998.

On behalf of Lori and the Committee, we extend our sympathies to his family.

- Rhoda and Mark Berenson