Berenson Parents Plead for Daughter

Associated Press -- 15 March 2001

LIMA, Peru - The parents of Lori Berenson, an American accused of collaborating with terrorists, expressed concern Thursday that their daughter might not get a fair trial.

``Lori is innocent. She is not afraid of the truth or the ordeal of a trial,'' Mark Berenson told reporters at his hotel.

``But we are concerned that a fair trial may indeed be impossible,'' he added, citing the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights opinion that ``repressive statutes, procedures and rules'' inhibit a fair trial under Peru's terrorism laws.

Berenson, a former Massachusetts Institute of Technology student, gained international attention when a hooded military court sentenced her to life in prison in 1996 on charges of helping the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement plan a thwarted takeover of Peru's Congress.

After years of pressure from the United States, Peru's top military court overturned her conviction in August, granting her a new trial by a civilian terrorism court on a lesser charge of collaborating with the rebels.

The trial will begin on Tuesday and could last more than a month. Prosecutors are asking for the minimum 20-year sentence.

Former President Alberto Fujimori created Peru's terrorism courts in 1992 to help crack down on the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement and the much larger and bloodier Shining Path rebel group, which brought the government to its knees during the 1980s and early 90s with car bombings, assassinations and intimidation.