Report: No Talk of Peru Prisoner

The Associated Press -- 22 July 1999

LIMA, Peru (AP) - An American woman's life sentence for treason in Peru will not be open for discussion when President Alberto Fujimori meets with President Clinton's envoy to Latin America, a local newspaper reported.

Kenneth H. McKay is scheduled to meet with Fujimori today to discuss democracy, economic integration and corruption in the region. But when asked about New York native Lori Berenson, convicted by a secret military court in 1996, Fujimori repeated his often-stated position that Peru will not modify her sentence.

Berenson, 29, was convicted of helping rebels of the pro-Cuban Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement plan a thwarted attempt to seize Peru's Congress.

Her parents maintain her innocence and the U.S. State Department has urged Peru to try her in an open, civilian court, arguing that the military court denied her due process.

Fujimori and McKay also are expected to discuss Peru's withdrawal two weeks ago from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, local newspapers said. Peru took the step after the court ordered the retrial of four Chileans convicted of treason. The Costa Rica-based court is the hemisphere's top judicial body.

"If he wants to talk about Peru's withdrawal from (the human rights) court, it will be an opportunity to explain our position," Fujimori told the Lima newspaper El Comercio.

Like Berenson, the four Chileans were convicted by military courts despite not being Peruvian citizens. Berenson's case is expected to be heard by the Inter-American court and Peru's decision not to respect its rulings was a blow to her hopes for a new trial.

The court is a part of the Organization of American States.