News from Lori's Parents

2 July 1999

In this update:

Noam Chomsky statement about Lori distributed at Congressional Human Rights Caucus Briefing

Although he was unable to attend the Congressional Briefing, MIT Professor of Linguistics Noam Chomksy issued a statement (the full text appears on the web site). He concludes by saying "Lori Berenson is not only a wonderful person whose rights are under savage attack, but also an inspiring symbol of the aspirations of countless people throughout the world who seek a measure of the freedom and rights that they deserve, in a world that is more humane and more just, and that we can help create if we are willing to devote to this cause a fraction of the heroism that Lori Berenson has so impressively demonstrated in her honorable and far too lonely struggle."

A "turn-away" crowd in excess of 100 attended the Human Rights Caucus Congressional Briefing "Human Rights in Perú: The Lori Berenson Case" on June 30th. Representative Carolyn Maloney, the host, gave opening remarks. Rhoda Berenson provided background information and former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark discussed the legal aspects and responded to questions on why the bilateral transfer treaty is not applicable in Lori's case. Reverend William J. Nottingham and Sister Eileen Storey, two members of a recent ecumenical delegation that visited Lori, then discussed that meeting and their impressions of Lori as well as her physical health.

Three members of the human rights community then spoke on issues relating to Perú. Carlos Salinas of Amnesty International described the anti-terrorism laws and the wrongful incarceration of hundreds of individuals who, like Lori, never had a semblance of due process or a trial. He described issues of detainment and torture in Perú. Coletta Youngers of the Washington Office on Latin America then discussed Lori's case within Perú's political context -- the persecution of journalists, repression of opposition, the governmental control of the judicial processes, the violation of human rights, and the disdain for democratic principles. Blase Bonpane, Office of the Americas, discussed his meeting with Lori in early March as part of a religious and human rights delegation. He then answered questions raised by members of the Congress.

Human rights activist, Mrs. Annette Lantos, wife of Representative Tom Lantos, spoke about her work with the Caucus that her husband co-chairs and read a letter from Lori to the human rights community that Lori had written from Yanamayo Prison in August 1998. (The letter is on the web site). Representative Jim McGovern and Representative Maxine Waters then made strong statements on behalf of Lori and Mark Berenson concluded with a note of thanks and a plea for Lori's freedom.

The Briefing, which lasted nearly two hours, was significant because of the concern expressed by the members of Congress for Lori's health and welfare and their outrage over her wrongful imprisonment. The members of Congress expressed dissatisfaction with the way the Administration has acted and said it was time to consider measures such as holding, stopping, cutting, or ending various forms of aid to Perú for its wrongful treatment of Lori.

Media coverage leading up to the Briefing was provided by CBS radio. An article on the Briefing appeared in the Peruvian paper Gestion.

Would you believe this -- Clinton Administration supports SIN!

An article in the New York Times (Thursday July 1) and front page in Perú's La Republica (Friday July 2) indicates that the Senate Appropriations Committee has flagged a long standing involvement between the US government and the notorious Peruvian Servicio Intelligencia Nacional (with acronym SIN), their equivalent of our CIA, accused of using tactics of torture, intimidation, corruption, narcotics dealing, and wiretapping while supporting the administration of President Albert Fujimori. Eliot Abrams, a major official in the Reagan administration, has urged that this support for SIN be immediately terminated because that institution is a detriment to democracy in Perú.

Listen to Pacifica Radio "Democracy Now" program on web site

On Friday, July 2nd, Amy Goodman, host of Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now" updated the Lori Berenson case and discussed this recent revelation of U.S. government support for SIN. Carlos Salinas and Coletta Youngers joined Mark Berenson and Congressman Jim McGovern along with National Security Council spokesman P. J. Crowley to discuss these issues. After listening to the description of the U.S. government's lack of proactivity in Lori's case, Congressman McGovern concluded that Americans are clearly in danger when traveling abroad because the federal government is not acting decisively for them. Representative McGovern said it was absurd to think that Lori could ever get a trial, let alone a fair trial in Perú, given President Fujimori's control over the judiciary process and Perú's three year intransigence on providing Lori justice. Congressman McGovern argued forcefully that it was time for the U.S. government to act decisively to secure Lori's release. For those of you with access to audio, this program appears on our web site.

Independence Day and Lori Berenson

As we "celebrate" our Independence Day on Sunday, our fourth such day while Lori languishes in prison, strictly for her beliefs, we are saddened because this great country has let us down -- it has not proactively and vigorously sought justice for Lori. President Clinton has not "felt our pain." Our Administration has not stood strong for liberty, for justice, and for human rights in Lori's case. It is very difficult for us to understand this. On Sunday, as reflect on freedom, on liberty, on justice, and on the values we hold dear as citizens of the United States of America, we will think of the words of Noam Chomsky and we will remind ourselves of Lori's own words, said nearly two years ago "they can deprive me of physical freedom by the concrete walls and iron bars which hold me, but they can never incarcerate my mind -- I will always be free."

- Rhoda and Mark Berenson