Lori Berenson Surrenders to Police in Peru

New Yorker back in custody after court strikes down her parole

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    An American activist convicted of aiding leftist rebels surrendered to police on Wednesday after a court struck down a decision granting her parole and ordered her to return to prison, where she is to remain with her 15-month-old son for the time being.

    An American activist convicted of aiding leftist rebels surrendered to police on Wednesday after a court struck down a decision granting her parole and ordered her to return to prison, where she is to remain with her 15-month-old son for the time being.

    Lori Berenson was arrested by police at the U.S. Embassy, where she had been attending a meeting about "consular issues" when she learned of the court's ruling, embassy spokesman James Fennell said.

    "She's calm. She is a very strong women," her husband and lawyer, Anibal Apari, told reporters outside the embassy. "She is going to return to jail with her baby."

    The ruling by the three-judge panel of the criminal appeals court was announced two days after the 40-year-old New Yorker appeared at a hearing, apologizing for her crime and asking the court to uphold her parole. Berenson told the court on Monday that she regrets her actions and hoped to focus on raising on her son, Salvador.

    Berenson has acknowledged collaborating with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, but said she was never a member of the group nor involved in violent acts.

    She has so far served 15 years of a 20-year prison sentence for terrorist collaboration.

    "Even though she disagrees with the court's decision, she has turned herself in," Apari said.

    Deputy Justice Minister Luis Marill said the court struck down the May 27 decision that granted her parole — a decision that was widely unpopular in Peru.

    Julio Galindo, the government's lead anti-terrorism prosecutor, told the Peruvian radio station Radioprogramas that the court had annulled the May decision granting parole until an error is addressed — that Berenson had not promptly notified police of the correct address where she would live upon her release.

    Galindo said that once that error is addressed, the judge in the case, Jessica Leon, would be able to issue a new ruling. He said the process is likely to take about two months and that if the judge decides in Berenson's favor again, she would go free again.

    Marill called it "probable" that the judge could decide to free Berenson again on parole, but added: "That's going to depend a great deal on the efforts of the prosecutor's office" and other factors, including police reports.

    The prosecutor has argued there were errors in the ruling that granted parole, including that Berenson's time served in prison was incorrectly calculated. If the criminal appeals court eventually rules against Berenson on that issue, she might have to remain in prison, Galindo said.

    There was no immediate reaction from Berenson's parents, who are from New York City and have been in Peru in recent days.

    Berenson was initially accused of being a leader of the Tupac Amaru, which bombed banks and kidnapped and killed civilians in the 1980s and 1990s.

    When she was arrested in November 1995 with the wife of the group's leader, prosecutors said Berenson was helping plot a takeover of Peru's Congress.

    She was convicted of treason by a military court in 1996 and sentenced to life. But after an intense campaign by her parents and pressure from the U.S. government, she was retried in a civilian court. In 2001 it convicted her of the lesser crime of terrorist collaboration and sentenced her to 20 years.

    Galindo, the prosecutor, has questioned whether Berenson has cut all links to the rebel group.

    Many Peruvians disapproved of Berenson's release, and congressmen of multiple parties praised the ruling to send her back behind bars.

    "I think we shouldn't give a single millimeter to terrorism," said lawmaker Carlos Raffo, who belongs to the party of former President Alberto Fujimori, during whose government Berenson was prosecuted and imprisoned.