Berenson Lawyer Makes Request

Associated Press -- 29 March 2001

by Craig Mauro

LIMA, Peru - Lori Berenson's lawyer said Thursday that police violated her rights by covertly videotaping her conversations with another attorney, and asked that most of the evidence against her be thrown out.

Berenson, 31, a native New Yorker, has been jailed in Peru since 1995. A secret military court convicted her of treason in 1996 and sentenced her to life in prison for allegedly helping the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement plan a thwarted takeover of Congress.

Retired police Gen. Juan Gonzales told local radio and television stations this week that authorities secretly videotaped a conversation between Berenson and her then-lawyer, Grimaldo Achahui, hours after her 1995 arrest.

Peru's highest military court overturned her conviction in August, and her civilian trial began last week on a lesser charge of ``terrorist collaboration.''

The three-judge panel presiding over the case said it would not make an immediate ruling on the defense motion to exclude most of the prosecution's case.

Defense attorney Jose Luis Sandoval argued that the supposed videotape was illegally obtained, violated Berenson's right to attorney-client confidentiality and tainted the police investigation.

``The entire police investigation is invalidated from the point when her fundamental guarantees, like privacy of communication, were violated,'' Sandoval said after the hearing Thursday.

Gonzales said that during a two-hour meeting in an office at the anti-terrorism police headquarters, Achahui advised Berenson to deny everything when questioned.

Achahui said Thursday he had warned Berenson they were probably being recorded. She made no admissions of involvement with rebels to him, he said.

``What I said to her is, 'Look, we have no guarantee of due process here. You simply have to deny everything,''' he told The Associated Press. ``She was being psychologically abused. That was the form and method the police used at the time in these investigations.''

The prosecution case is based largely on statements from guerrillas presented during the military trial. The rebels have since altered, recanted or disavowed the statements implicating Berenson, Sandoval says.

State's attorney Mario Cavagnaro said Thursday he had never seen the videotaped conversation mentioned by Gonzales.

Prosecutors allege Berenson rented a house in 1995 as a hide-out for the rebels and posed as a journalist with the wife of the group's top commander to enter Congress to collect information.

Berenson denies the charges and maintains she did not know her housemates or the woman, whom she says she hired as a photographer for an article she was preparing, were rebels.