Fujimori Won't Budge on U.S. Inmate

Associated Press -- 28 April 2000

LIMA, Peru President Alberto Fujimori said Friday he would not change his long-standing position that an American woman jailed for terrorism serve out her life sentence in Peru.

Fujimori, who is running for a third term in an upcoming runoff election, said his government would not budge from its strict policy on leftist rebels.

``For that reason when we have received congressmen or representatives from the American government in the case of Lori Berenson it was not accepted that she be transferred to the United States to serve out her sentence,'' he said.

Fujimori did not specify what requests he was referring to. The U.S. State Department has consistently urged Peru to grant Berenson a new trial.

Berenson, who went on a two-week hunger strike earlier this year to protest prison conditions, has maintained her innocence.

A hooded military judge convicted the 30-year-old New York native of treason on Jan. 11, 1996, for helping to lead a thwarted assault on Peru's Congress by leftist Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement rebels.

Berenson's fate turned into a campaign issue on Thursday when presidential hopeful Alejandro Toledo said in New York that if elected, a new trial for Berenson could be possible if evidence is found that she was denied due process.

Berenson would not be granted special status because she is from the United States, he added.

But Toledo on Friday clarified his position during a speech in Washington after pro-government media in Peru reported that he had pledged to give Berenson a new trial.

He said his government would not take action on Berenson's case but that if a new, independent judiciary decided a new trial was warranted, his government would not interfere.