For Immediate Release
September 5, 2000
Release Lori Berenson
Maloney: "It's time for her to come home."
NEW YORK: Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY) joined Mark Berenson, the father of Lori Berenson, and legal experts today, to call for the immediate release of Lori Berenson from Peruvian prison and to discuss several serious concerns with Lori's upcoming civil trial in Peru. The following are excerpts from Maloney's statement at the event:
"After keeping Lori Berenson in prison for nearly five years, the Peruvian military courts have finally acknowledged that she was never a leader of the MRTA. Her original sentence resulted from a trial in which Lori was not allowed to call witnesses or present evidence in her own defense. For the last five years, we have been calling on the Peruvian government to acknowledge that Lori's sentence never made sense- that she was convicted in a proceeding so lacking in due process, that it was clearly a sham.
"I personally went down to Peru twice. I met with Lori in prison, and I met with high level Peruvian officials. I even met with President Fujimori. For nearly five years, they refused to take a look at the evidence. During that time, Lori has suffered terribly. She spent much of her sentence in a prison so high in the Andes that she literally got sick from the altitude and had to be transferred to a prison that was lower down. For more than 100 days after her transfer, she was held in solitary confinement. Despite all of this, she has been a model prisoner.
"While we are very pleased that Peru's military court has overturned the verdict, we believe that Lori will not get a fair hearing in a civilian court. Human Rights Watch has noted that 'the definition of terrorism is so broad and so vague that almost any activity could qualify as terrorism.' Our own State Department has said that they have serious concerns, which they have reported on in their Human Rights report for Peru, about the openness and fairness of trial proceedings in cases related to terrorism in the civilian courts. In the report they say that the judiciary is 'often subject to corruption and easily controlled by the executive branch.' And President Fujimori has already signaled that the outcome of the civilian trial is predetermined. He has told reporters: 'The fact that the case has been passed to the civilian court does not mean she is going to go free. Terrorism is also punished in the civilian court. The minimum is 20 years and there are also life sentences.'
"Those of us who care about human rights will not be placated by another show trial where the verdict is a foregone conclusion. I have written to President Fujimori, to let him know that it's not enough to offer Lori a civilian trial at this late date. We will continue to call for Lori's release. If she is convicted, as everyone expects, I hope that her sentence will be commuted to time served. Lori has spent enough time in prison. It's time for her to come home."