US Prisoner's 'Freedom' Generates Anger
11 June 2010
US citizen Lori Berenson was granted parole by a judge in Lima at the end of May after serving 15 years of a 20-year sentence for allegedly collaborating with a Marxist rebel group, the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), during Peru’s internal armed conflict during the 1990s. She continues to deny the charges.
According to the terms of her parole, Berenson has to remain in Peru for five years to serve out the remainder of her sentence.
Protesters have gathered outside the building where she currently resides and have demanded she leaves the country. Her release provoked controversy in a country still shocked by a bloody armed conflict that killed up to 70,000 people (1980-2000).
Justice minister Victor García Toma said Lori Berenson has asked for the country’s forgiveness in a letter sent to president Alan García. According to García Toma’s analysis of the situation, he recommends expelling the US citizen immediately. “I don’t think Lori Berenson can create harm for society, but she has created anger among citizens,” he said. If president García does decide to expel Berenson, the US citizen will be forced to leave Peru when she completes her sentence in five years.
Berenson was arrested under former president Alberto Fujimori’s administration, who himself is now in prison after being convicted of human rights crimes last year.
Her release was based on a legislation that was passed in 2003 during the government of former president Alejandro Toledo. The law allows inmates who were charged with terrorism to gain conditional parole when they have completed three-quarters of their sentence.