Lori Berenson Freed in Peru After 15 Years

American Lori Berenson has finally been freed from prison in Peru, after serving 15 years of a 20 year sentence.

Berenson has served 15 years of a 20-year sentence for aiding Peruvian rebels in a 1995 plot to overthrow Peru's congress.

Her release is conditional, meaning she's on parole. So she can't leave the country right away. According to the FreeLori website, maintained by her family, she and her year old son Salvador, whom she had in prison, will be moving to an apartment in Lima.

Lori appeared before the judge in court on Monday, May 17th, for a hearing, defended by her husband, Anibal Apari Sanchez, a Lima lawyer and candidate for Mayor of Villa El Salvador, a suburb of Lima with over a half million inhabitants. Lori will be a single mom - Anibal and Lori are legally separated but remain friends and both share concerns for Salvador's proper upbringing.

Here's an interview with Lori from 2008, describing her arrest and life in prison. Lori's parents, Mark and Rhoda Berenson, worked tirelessly all these years to free Lori. They never gave up. What wonderful news, so long overdue, for all of them.

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  • Display: Sort:
    This is good news. (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Tue May 25, 2010 at 07:20:33 PM EST
    Query:  how can they be separated if he wasn't in prison w/her while they were married.  

    Wow, such wonderful news (none / 0) (#2)
    by ruffian on Tue May 25, 2010 at 07:21:11 PM EST
    Very happy for her family tonight and hope other families have the same joy soon.

    Happy for the family and the Peruvian system. (none / 0) (#3)
    by LatinoDC on Tue May 25, 2010 at 07:30:08 PM EST
    And hopefully she will be able to reinsert herself in society.  It is important to remember, however, that she was sentenced in 2001 to 20 years of prison by a democratic regime (which corrected the life sentence imposed by the dictatorial regime of Alberto Fujimori), and that this measure comes with the opposition of the DA. She has gotten a second chance, let's hope she takes advantage of it.

    Wondering if U.S. would have (none / 0) (#4)
    by oculus on Tue May 25, 2010 at 07:34:09 PM EST
    classified Bernstein as an "enemy combatant" and subjected her to indefinite detention.

    In all fairness (none / 0) (#5)
    by nyjets on Tue May 25, 2010 at 09:21:58 PM EST
    In all fairness Bernstein was accused of being part of an organization that was a terrorist organization. Assuming she was guilty of this, and she probable was, you have to wonder if it is a good idea that she was released.



    her hero (none / 0) (#6)
    by diogenes on Tue May 25, 2010 at 10:13:54 PM EST
    "Certainly here in Peru the leaders seem to be afraid of something about the Chavez movement. What are they so afraid of? And the Peruvians are very afraid. And much of the U.S. is too."

    I doubt that Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, or others would give better treatment to someone convicted of helping a rebel organization that wanted to overthrow THEM.  
    Usually people who get paroled here at least pretend to show remorse for whatever it was that they were convicted of.  It sure doesn't show in her interview.


    Thank you, Mr Buckley (none / 0) (#14)
    by jondee on Wed May 26, 2010 at 12:39:22 PM EST
    Now Mr Vidal, your thoughts..

    Some clarifications: (none / 0) (#10)
    by MsExPat on Wed May 26, 2010 at 02:27:47 AM EST
    The Tupac Amaru Revolutionary movement (MRTA)was not a Maoist movement, nor was it allied with the violently murderous Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso). MRTA more resembled a Che/Castro style liberation movement.

    From the report of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation commission (via Wiki):

    Unlike Shining Path, and like other armed Latin American organizations with which it maintained ties, the MRTA claimed responsibility for its actions, its members used uniforms or other identifiers to differentiate themselves from the civilian population, it abstained from attacking the unarmed population and at some points showed signs of being open to peace negotiations. Nevertheless, MRTA also engaged in criminal acts; it resorted to assassinations, such as in the case of General Enrique López Albújar, the taking of hostages and the systematic practice of kidnapping, all crimes that violate not only personal liberty but the international humanitarian law that the MRTA claimed to respect. It is important to highlight that MRTA also assassinated dissidents within its own ranks.

    Okay so these guys were no angels. But of all the killings investigated by Peru's T and R commission after the terrorism period, the MRTA accounted for but 1.5% of them.

    Further, there remains only the flimsiest of evidence that Lori Berenson actually did anything criminal. The first court case took place behind closed doors with hooded judges.

    What destroyed Berenson in the eyes of the Peruvian public--and the judges--back then is that she spoke out aggressively supporting the group during her trial. That clip of an angry American woman, shouting about revolution, is what condemned her more than any actual evidence presented.

    It still does. The Peruvian papers are quoting her future Lima neighbors in her apartment building as being "aghast" that a "person of such class" will be living amongst them.


    There's more on the difference between MRTA (none / 0) (#11)
    by MsExPat on Wed May 26, 2010 at 02:31:29 AM EST
    A friend forwarded me a news article (none / 0) (#12)
    by oculus on Wed May 26, 2010 at 11:41:39 AM EST
    re her parole:  MRTA "only" responsible for 200 killings.

    Berenson's sentence was confirmed (none / 0) (#15)
    by LatinoDC on Wed May 26, 2010 at 12:48:47 PM EST
    by a democratic regime (2001, depending on the on the month it was either Toledo's or Paniagua's).

    Doesn't Peru know that because they (none / 0) (#13)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed May 26, 2010 at 11:49:07 AM EST
    enforced their laws and made her serve 15 years that they merely ensured that Lori would become a hardened terrorist with a deep-seated and unyielding grudge against Peru? And rightly so?

    the INPE (Instituto Nacional Penitenciario) (none / 0) (#16)
    by LatinoDC on Wed May 26, 2010 at 12:51:12 PM EST
    considers she is  no longer a threat.  However, the DA disagrees with them.  She has a son now, I bet that changed her a bit.

    Thanks, my comment was an inside dig (none / 0) (#17)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed May 26, 2010 at 01:47:43 PM EST
    at an oft-repeated meme here on TL...

    Yah, I felt the comment honored your nickname, (none / 0) (#18)
    by LatinoDC on Wed May 26, 2010 at 04:34:04 PM EST
    but thought that info would still be useful

    Lori engaged and principled, not so naive (none / 0) (#19)
    by halrivers on Fri May 28, 2010 at 09:15:01 AM EST
    Lori did her research in the barrios, that sea where revolutionary movements like MRTA swam. She could have played it safe and relied on official channels, but official channels were fascistic. The campaign of vilification against her by the now discredited Fujimori government took root and has outlasted Fujimori. It has made it politicaly impossibe for subsequent governments to abandon the meme that Lori was a terrorist interloping gringa.
    For the whole term of her imprisonment, she has maintained that the plight of her fellow prisoners and of Peru's poor and oppressed was the real issue, not Lori Berenson.

    actually the MRTA got most of its members (none / 0) (#20)
    by LatinoDC on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:13:47 PM EST
    from Andean cities, not the "pueblos jovenes" (correct name for what is refered to barrios in peru). Also with the judicial reform once Fujimori left the Peruvian state got rid of most of that terrible influence.  The proof of it: Fujimori and many other members of his dictatorial regime are in jail now.  Questioning the capacity of a democratic regime of the type that Peru had in 2001 to conduct fair trials without looking at the evidence of the case (which is very convincing) is just wrong.