- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2001

Lima, Peru — American Lori Berenson was sentenced by a Peruvian court yesterday to 20 years in jail as a collaborator with an outlawed Marxist rebel group in a plot to raid the national legislature.
She was acquitted of a parallel charge that she was an active member of the group.
The court said she would not be released until Nov. 29, 2015, after time served.
The 31-year-old New Yorker, who was convicted in 1996 by a hooded military judge and jailed for life as a leader of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, was granted a retrial last year.
The prosecution had sought a sentence of at least 20 years. Berenson has protested her innocence, and her attorney has said he will appeal.
After delivering the verdict, presiding Magistrate Marcos Ibazeta ordered Berenson to stand while a court clerk read out the full case against her. The civilian court found Berenson guilty of "terrorist collaboration" with the Marxist movement.
Berenson, who stood calmly while the verdict was read, was found guilty of aiding the group by renting a house that served as their hideout, then posing as a journalist to enter Congress to gather intelligence with a top rebel commanders wife.
Tupac Amaru had been planning a raid to seize Perus Congress, and Berenson had rented out the house the rebels were using to cache weapons and plan the raid.
The verdict came five hours after Berenson said in her closing statement: "I am not a terrorist.
"I am innocent of the prosecutors charges of being a member of and a collaborator with the MRTA (the Spanish acronym for the rebel organization)," she said. "I condemn terrorism, and I say that in every case."
Berenson has received little sympathy in Peru, which still remembers the bloody war against leftist rebels that wound down in the early 1990s.
The guilty verdict came as little surprise and ended her civilian retrial on terrorism charges after she spent more than five years in a series of Peruvian prisons.
Justice Minister Diego Garcia Sayan said earlier that the government would respect the verdict and that Berenson would serve out any sentence in Peru dimming hopes that she could receive a presidential pardon.
Berensons previous life sentence, handed down in 1996 on charges of being a rebel leader, was thrown out by the military justice system on Aug. 28.
During the 3-month-long trial, state prosecutors stuck to earlier accusations, including that Berenson had rented a house used as a training site by Tupac Amaru and posed as a journalist with a photographer, who turned out to be the wife of an MRTA rebel, to reconnoiter in the Congress.
Berenson stood before the court dressed in a tan blazer, charcoal turtleneck and black pants. Her calm, if at times defiant, 45-minute statement given with the assistance of one sheet of notes remained critical of social injustices in Latin America, her persecution for holding these beliefs, and what she deemed as "political terrorism" by the Peruvian government under President Alberto Fujimori.
"They punished me in two ways," Berenson said at one point of her final statement. "First with a life sentence, but more than this, they used me as a symbol of violence and terrorism for more than five years."
Berenson did not renounce or criticize the MRTA. Her sole apology came for her vehement behavior in the now-famous videotape, filmed 40 days after her arrest in late 1995, in which she defiantly shouted at the assembled press, "There are no criminal terrorists in the MRTA. It is a revolutionary movement."
Yesterdays verdict will be appealed to Perus Supreme Court.
Berenson has been in Latin America for 11 years. She dropped out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She sought out leftist groups she felt were the only effective fighters for justice for the masses of Latin American poor. In El Salvador, she served as a secretary to a top Marxist rebel leader during peace negotiations before going to Peru in 1994.
A year later, Peruvian anti-terrorism police arrested Berenson, then 25, on a Lima bus.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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