Lori Berenson, an American citizen jailed in Peru twenty years ago for assisting the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) terrorist group will be allowed to return to the U.S. today.
Berenson was convicted of terrorism in 1995 for her alleged involvement in a plot to kidnap members of the Peruvian Congress and exchange them for imprisoned MRTA members.
The MRTA was a revolutionary movement which began in the 1980s, aiming to create a socialist state across Peru.
Berenson has always maintained that she had no knowledge of the plot, however, the house she rented in Lima was found to contain an arsenal of weapons along with MRTA members who violently resisted arrest. She was also found to have visited the Peruvian Congress with the wife of an MRTA member using her journalist visa to gain access and sketch out a seating plan.
Originally sentenced to life imprisonment by a military tribunal, many aspects of her trial were deemed to breach human rights and basic due process. Following her detention significant pressure was placed on the Peruvian authorities by the international human rights community and the U.S. government to secure her release which included a number of personal intercessions made on her behalf by various U.S. presidents. In 2001 Berenson won a retrial in a civilian court that saw her sentence reduced to 15 years. For the last five years she has been living in Lima on parole.
Since her detention Berenson has stated her regret for her involvement with the MRTA and has repudiated using violence as means for achieving social change.
Nevertheless, the figure of Berenson continues to arouse heated emotions in a country where scars of terrorism are still relatively fresh. Local media and social networks went into overdrive after Frank Bajak, writing for AP, referred to her as an “activist” as opposed to a “terrorist”.
Miguel Garrido Lecca director of Altavoz in an open letter to AP wrote that the Bajak piece makes “statements that insult the memory of the tens of thousands killed by the bloody Marxist terrorism that took over my country last century”.
Berenson has stated that on release she intends to continue with her studies and work on social justice issues.
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