Statement by religious delegation

21 June 2001

The following is the statement of the Religous Delegation that was made at the Foreign Press Association at a press conference in Lima on June 21.

On behalf of the religious delegation present on June 20 in the trial of Lori Berenson, we want to express our unqualified support of her and our intention to continue to raise the consciousness of people in North America and the rest of the world in calling for her release. We are convinced that there is no basis at all to consider her a terrorist. We know she is a person who abhors violence and has a great feeling of compassion for the poor of our world, and we understand that and commend it.

We affirm that Lori Berenson is a person of principle and we admire the statement she made at her trial as an example of the solidarity that we hope young people everywhere will feel towards the poor. She has shown spiritual and moral strength in the five and a half years that she has already served in prison and we believe she will prove to be an example of courage and commitment in the struggle for a better world for all.

In her case, there is only circumstantial evidence, and in place of proving anything, the judges depended on something the Peruvian Penal code calls 'the criterion of conscience,' in other words, the judges' impression or private opinion. The circumstantial evidence remains circumstantial, and that does not justify a prison sentence. Whatever relationships she may have had, which led to charges, have not been proven to have any criminal content or intention.

We consider it indecent to associate this trial and sentence in any way with the five and a half years she has already served as part of a life sentence imposed by hooded judges, which was subsequently annulled. It is the height of hypocrisy and shows a lack of a sense of justice and humanitarian concern, the justice that we had hoped would be characteristic of Peru after the flight of ex-President Alberto Fujimori.

Furthermore, we are of the opinion that the Clinton Administration should have secured her release immediately after her military conviction was overturned in August 2000. We expect the Bush Administration to show concern for human rights and bring her home.

Fr. Bill Bichsel, S.J., Tacoma Catholic Worker (Tacoma, WA)
Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs, Temple Kol Tikvah (Woodland Hills, CA)
Rev. Dr. James Lawson, Jr., United Methodist Church (Los Angeles, CA)
Rev. Dr. William J. Nottingham, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), (Indianapolis, IN)