Berenson Sentence Expected in May

Associated Press -- 15 May 2001

LIMA, Peru - A verdict should be reached by the end of May in the case of Lori Berenson, a New York woman on trial for collaborating with leftist rebels, the judge said Tuesday.

Lori Berenson, 31, is in the final phase of a civilian retrial for allegedly helping the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement plot a thwarted takeover of Peru's Congress in 1995.

Judge Marcos Ibazeta told The Associated Press that he expects to have a verdict by the end of the month. The only foreseeable delay, he said, would be if Peru's Supreme Court overrules the trial court's decision to throw out a defense motion demanding that Ibazeta remove himself from hearing the case.

Defense attorney Jose Sandoval filed an appeal with the high court after accusing Ibazeta of bias against Berenson and alleging the judge was a political crony of Peru's fugitive ex-spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos.

Berenson's supporters have argued that Montesinos and disgraced ex-President Alberto Fujimori concocted the charges against her to make them look tough on terrorism.

Closing arguments could come next week, Ibazeta said.

Berenson arrived in Peru in late 1994 after working as a personal secretary to a top Salvadoran guerrilla leader during peace negotiations that ended El Salvador's bloody civil war.

She acknowledges that she rented a house used by Peruvian guerrillas as a hide-out. But the former Massachusetts Institute of Technology student maintains she did not know the people she lived with were leftist rebels.