Human rights court to begin deliberations on Berenson case

Newsday -- 11 November 2004

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - The Inter-American Human Rights Court said Thursday it will soon begin deliberations in the case of Lori Berenson, the 34-year-old New Yorker imprisoned since 1995 in Peru for collaborating with Marxist guerrillas.

The San Jose-based court will deliberate the case Nov. 15-25, deciding whether Berenson received a fair civilian retrial in 2001.

Berenson was arrested in 1995 and was convicted by hooded military judges who denied her a chance to present evidence or cross-examine witnesses. She was sentenced to life without parole.

Her 2001 retrial came after intense U.S. pressure. She was convicted of the lesser charge of terrorist collaboration and sentenced to 20 years in prison, including time served.

But Berenson's defense team, led by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, argued her retrial was still based on draconian anti-terrorism laws and failed to meet international standards for due process.

Berenson was improperly tried twice for the same crime, Clark said, and faced hostile judges who relied on coerced testimony and tainted evidence from the earlier military trial. Berenson has denied any wrongdoing.

The Inter-American Human Rights Court is an independent arm of the Organization of American States.