Free Lori Berenson

The Dallas Morning News -- 19 June 1999

Letter to the Editor

by Molly Pochciol

Eleven Texas members of the House of Representatives have signed a Dear Colleague letter to President Clinton to secure the immediate release of Lori Berenson, a United States citizen serving a life sentence in Peru. These representatives are Ken Bentsen, Henry Gonzalez, Kay Granger, Martin Frost, Ralph Hall, Sheila Jackson-Lee, E.B. Johnson, Nick Lampson, Ciro Rodriguez, Max Sandlin and Jim Turner. This letter has been signed by 176 representatives in all.

Sponsored by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York, the letter states that the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights has found that Ms. Berenson has been "deprived of her liberty arbitrarily and that Peru is in violation of two international pacts to which it is signatory." The United States government has done little to rectify this injustice despite international findings that Ms. Berenson has been wrongfully held. The cosigners of this letter are asking President Clinton to "abide by Title 22 U.S.C. Section 1732," which requires him to take all steps, short of going to war, to secure the release of an incarcerated American citizen "if it appears wrongful."

Lori Berenson was working as a journalist in Peru when she was arrested on charges of "treason to the fatherland" in 1995. She was tried by a faceless, hooded military tribunal without consideration of due process and sentenced to life in prison. Since then her health has rapidly deteriorated due to the harsh conditions of the Peruvian prisons. She has steadfastly maintained her innocence and called the charges against her "preposterous."

Congressional efforts are joined by a national campaign led by Ms. Berenson's parents, Mark and Rhonda Berenson of New York, her attorney, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, and the Committee to Free Lori Berenson, which is made up of regional coordinators from all over the country, including myself here in Texas. This is a situation that has gone on far too long and every effort must be made to save this young and intelligent woman's life. Many thanks to these members of Congress who signed this letter to President Clinton.