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The World

Berenson Sentence Appealed

S. America: Lawyer for American convicted of aiding Peruvian rebels asks judges to overturn her 20-year term.

January 23, 2002|From Associated Press

LIMA, Peru — A lawyer for imprisoned American Lori Berenson asked Peru's highest appeals court Tuesday to overturn her 20-year prison term for collaborating with rebels in a plot to seize Peru's Congress, saying she was convicted for her leftist ideas.

Berenson's defense attorney, Jose Luis Sandoval, made the plea before a five-judge panel of the Supreme Court. Berenson was not present during the hearing.

The panel has up to 15 working days to reach a decision, Supreme Court spokesman Andiolo Zevallos said. The court can uphold, overturn or reduce the sentence, he said.

Berenson considers herself a political prisoner and has said that authorities unfairly portrayed her concern for social justice for the poor as a terrorist agenda.

Prosecutor Ysaias Tamayo, an anti-terrorism advocate from the Interior Ministry, asked the court to confirm the sentence. Berenson's open civilian trial "was carried out with the maximum guarantee of due process," he said.

Berenson, 32, a New York native, was convicted in June of terrorist collaboration in a failed bid by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement to take over Peru's Congress in 1995. She was acquitted of being a member of the rebel group.

She was sentenced to 20 years in prison but is due to be released in 2015 because she had already served five years under an earlier terrorist conviction by a secret military tribunal of hooded judges.

The tribunal had sentenced her in 1996 to life in prison without parole on charges she was a rebel leader. But a higher military tribunal overturned the ruling in August 2000 and remitted her case to a civilian anti-terrorism court.

That court ruled that Berenson had aided the Tupac Amaru rebels by renting a house that served as their hide-out and posing as a journalist to enter Congress to gather intelligence.

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