Peru: appeals court upholds release of Lori Berenson

A Peruvian appeals court announced on Jan. 24 it had rejected the government’s petition to overturn a lower court’s decision to grant parole to Lori Berenson, a US citizen held since 1995 for collaboration with a Marxist rebel organization. According to Berenson and her lawyer, the ruling was final and cannot be appealed, representing a major setback to the government’s efforts to return her to prison. Berenson’s release last year sparked angry reaction in Peru, where she is widely remembered for her tirades in court during her televised trials in 1995. Berenson is obliged to stay in Lima for the remaining five years of her 20-year prison sentence, unless her sentence is commuted by President Alan García. If her sentence is commuted, Berenson would be deported immediately, allowing her to return to her native New York.

In November, a Peruvian judge reinstated Berenson’s parole, prompting another appeal from the government. Berenson was originally granted parole in May with the judge citing her good behavior, renunciation of violence and completion of rehabilitation. Judges restored her sentence in August, however, after legal authorities failed to verify addresses of residence provided by Berenson after her release. In 2005, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights denied an appeal to reinterpret its November 2004 ruling that upheld Berenson’s conviction. Lawyers for Berenson claimed that her trial failed to meet international standards for fairness and sought to have her conviction and sentence overturned. She was initially sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court, but the sentence was reduced to 20 years in a civil retrial in 2001.

From Jurist, Jan. 25. Used with permission.

See our last posts on Peru and the Lori Berenson case.