American Convicted in Peru Sent to Andean Prison

Reuters -- Thursday, 18 Jan 1996 13:20:12 PST

LIMA (Reuter) - An American convicted of treason and sentenced to imprisonment for life for her ties to Peruvian rebels was transferred to an Andean prison while her appeal moved swiftly forward, officials said Thursday.

A spokeswoman at the National Penitentiary Institute (INPE) said Lori Berenson and 25 others convicted of belonging to the pro-Cuban Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) were sent Wednesday to Yanamayo maximum security prison.

"There were 19 men and seven women," said the spokeswoman, who asked not to be named. "There was no weeping, no disturbance."

Berenson's Peruvian lawyer, Grimaldo Achahui, said the government was moving quickly to hear the appeal of the treason conviction and life sentence the 26-year-old native of New York City received from a military judge Jan. 11.

The appeal to a higher military tribunal was to take 20 days but a decision may now come "at any moment," he added. "They're moving fast. It may come out tomorrow (Friday)."

Meanwhile, his office also confirmed the arrival in Peru of Rhoda Berenson, Lori's mother, a physicist at Nassau Community College on Long Island.

Prisoners convicted of treason are denied visitors for a year then granted a monthly 15-minute visit.

The Yanamayo prison, at 13,120 feet above sea level near Lake Titicaca, is considered one of the country's harshest. It houses close to 500 leftist rebel suspects, including many leaders of the MRTA and the larger Maoist Shining Path groups.

Transferred along with Berenson was alleged MRTA No. 2 Miguel Rincon Rincon and others arrested Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 after an all-night shootout with security forces in Lima, the prison spokeswoman said.

Peruvian anti-terrorist police said Berenson, Rincon and other alleged guerrillas were planning on attack on Congress when they were captured.

Nearly 30,000 people have died since 1980 in guerrilla battles with the government.