Peru Denies Death of U.S. Prisoner

The Associated Press -- 12 April 1999

LIMA, Peru (AP) -- President Alberto Fujimori on Monday denied rumors that an American woman serving a life sentence for terrorism in Peru had died in prison.

Rumors that New York-native Lori Berenson, 29, who is in Socabaya prison in Peru's southern Andes, had died or been killed had circulated among reporters in Peru over the weekend.

"This is one more rumor, when the truth is she is enjoying good health," Fujimori said during a news conference.

A secretive military court found Berenson guilty of terrorism and treason on Jan. 11, 1996, for helping leftist Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement rebels plan a thwarted assault on Peru's Congress.

Berenson spent almost three years in an unheated cell in the high-altitude Yanamayo prison, before being transferred to the lower-lying Socabaya prison in October. Her health has deteriorated under the harsh prison conditions, her parents have said.

Her parents say Berenson is innocent and U.S. officials have asked Peru to give her a civilian trial, saying the military trial denied her due process.