U.S. lawmakers urge new trial for American in Peru

Reuters -- 14 February 1996

by Randall Mikkelsen

WASHINGTON (Reuter) - Twenty members of the House Wednesday urged Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori to give a new trial to an American sentenced to life in prison for treason.

They wrote Fujimori on behalf of New York resident Lori Berenson, who was convicted Jan. 11 by a military court in Peru on charges of aiding rebels. The members of Congress said she was not allowed to present an adequate defense.

The charges claimed that Berenson, 26, was a leader of Peru's pro-Cuban Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.

"Lori should have a chance to tell her side of the story, to have her attorney cross-examine witnesses and to present evidence that may substantiate her claims of innocence," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat who wrote the letter.

Maloney said ordinarily it would be wrong for the U.S. government to interfere in another government's legal system.

"But in this case, the nature of the charges against Lori, the forum in which she was tried and the harshness of the sentence imposed make it appropriate for us to put pressure on the Peruvian government to secure due process," she said.

"As an American citizen, Lori cannot commit treason against the Peruvian government. As a civilian, she should not be tried in a military court," Maloney said. Berenson's parents live in Maloney's congressional district.