Question Fujimori's life sentence to an American

Miami Herald -- 15 February, 1999

Letter to the Editor

I commend Joel Simon for his thorough, albeit-flawed, analysis of Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori's state-run, anti-press, intelligence apparatus (How Fujimori uses spies to tighten his grip on Peru, Feb. 4). Mr. Simon's failure to address the plight of American journalist Lori Berenson seems inappropriate. After three years and counting, she still languishes in a Peruvian prison traditionally reserved for violent terrorists.

Ms. Berenson, 29, a U.S. citizen, was convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison after a secret military trial devoid of due process. She wasn't permitted to challenge the allegations or the evidence against her. No verifiable record of these proceedings exists, and yet the findings of this Star Chamber remain intact.

Our government can't continue to apply the rule of law in an ad-hoc fashion solely to advance our geopolitical objectives. Mr. Simon's article adds little to our understanding of the megalomaniac whose dubious reign has been extended through executive decree and unbridled contempt for Peruvian institutions.

Substantiating this seemingly inconsistent policy, the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs has stated: ``Washington publicly has declared a zero-tolerance policy for terrorists who assault American citizens abroad. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright repeatedly has called for swift military retaliation against those who do harm to Americans living or traveling in a foreign country. That such a policy does not also extend to a vicious, repressive government that offers no semblance of justice or due process to an American citizen is preposterous.'' Equally preposterous is Mr. Simon's failure to mention Ms. Berenson in his diatribe against President Fujimori's actions toward the press.

Joshua P. Bratter
Florida Regional Coordinator,
Committee to Free Lori Berenson