Berenson's Parents Going to Peru

Associated Press -- 12 March 2001

NEW YORK - The parents of a New York woman whose life sentence for terrorism was overturned by a Peruvian military court said they are going to South America to attend her new civilian trial.

``I'm taking all of my clothes. I'm not coming back to this country until the case is resolved,'' Lori Berenson's father, Mark Berenson, said from his New York home on Monday.

He and his wife, Rhoda Berenson, were planning to leave for Peru on Tuesday. Their daughter's new trial is scheduled to start March 20.

Mark Berenson said he was told the trial could last anywhere from 15 days to four months. He said he hoped to ``bring Lori back in freedom.''

Lori Berenson, a former Massachusetts Institute of Technology student, was sentenced to life in prison in 1996 by a Peruvian military court on charges of treason for helping the leftist Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement plan a takeover of Congress.

But after years of pressure from the United States, Peru's top military court overturned her conviction in August, granting her a new civilian trial for a lesser charge of terrorist collaboration.

Police had said the takeover plan was foiled by Berenson's arrest and a raid on a rebel safe house where she admittedly lived in 1995.

Berenson, who is in a women's prison in Lima, Peru, denies she was involved in the takeover plot and maintains she never knew her former housemates were members of the rebel group.

Last week, Peru's Congress was shown a secretly taped video of Vladimiro Montesinos, who ran Peru's national intelligence service, that revealed he planned the military court's decision to overturn Berenson's conviction two years in advance and had even discussed getting her a pardon.

Peru's interim president, Valentin Paniagua, has said that Berenson's trial would be fair and open. Prosecutors have called for a 20-year sentence.

Montesinos is thought to have left the country as former President Alberto Fujimori's regime collapsed amid a corruption scandal. Fujimori is in Japan.