Lori Berenson's Plight

New York Times -- 25 December 2002

by Rhoda and Mark Berenson

Letter to the editor, page A22

To the Editor:

Re ``Peru's Former President Plots His Return to Power'' (news article, Dec. 22): As president, Alberto Fujimori trampled democracy and controlled the military, judiciary, Congress and most of the media. And he used our daughter Lori Berenson for political gain.

After the military court annulled Lori's preposterous conviction for treason, she was found guilty of collaboration with a leftist rebel group by a civilian court. But the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has unanimously vindicated Lori, declaring that "her conviction in the second trial is so unsupported by the facts that it constitutes a violation of the right to a fair trial."

The commission ruled that Lori should ``be ensured the enjoyment of her human rights'' and be compensated for her suffering. It has taken Lori's case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to force Peru's compliance.

Lori is innocent of all charges and has been imprisoned wrongfully under inhumane conditions for more than seven years. It is time for her to be free and Mr. Fujimori to face trial.

New York, Dec. 22, 2002

Unfortunately, other key commentary could not be included in the newspaper. Below are some other points made:

James Brooke's favorable article about Peru's autocratic and disgraced ex-president is most disturbing because Alberto Fujimori is a man who is suspected of robbing Peru of millions of dollars, is wanted for crimes against humanity, and whose government was responsible for torture, death, disappearance and false imprisonment of thousands of Peruvian citizens. His illegal, internationally condemned antiterrorism laws, under which Lori was tried twice, did as much to incarcerate his political enemies as they did to incarcerate terrorists.

In April 2002, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, one of the two legal bodies of the Organization of American States, again stated that Peru' s antiterrorism laws instituted by Mr. Fujimori were in violation of international law. The Commission further declared "The violations of the human rights of Ms. Berenson in the military trial were not cured with the second trial."

The Brooke article fails to mention that subsequent to the trial both government prosecutors and two of the three judges sitting on Lori's case have been fired for being incompetent or for corruption.

The fact that Peru has not pressed hard to extradite Mr. Fujimori from Japan is proof of the corruption that still exists in government and in the judiciary system, despite millions of dollars of aid from the U.S., the European Union, the World Bank, and other sources aimed at remedying this situation.

The Brooke article fails to mention that Mr. Fujimori is wanted for crimes against humanity, for election fraud, for an illegal third presidential term, and the fact that he even served as President of Peru for over a decade while maintaining Japanese citizenship.

The Brooke article neglects to mention that in resolving the Lima hostage crisis Mr. Fujimori is said to have ordered the summary execution of rebels who had surrendered and international forensic experts have subsequently proved that this occurred in several cases.