Thursday, May 27, 2010

Poster of the Week

Free Lori Berenson
Committee to Free Lori Berenson
offset, 1999
New York, New York

US Political Prisoner Released After Over 14 Years Imprisonment in Peru

Lori Berenson was born and raised in New York City, and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At the time of Lori’s arrest by the Peruvian government, on Nov. 30, 1995, she was working as a journalist with assignments from two U.S. publications. She had been researching articles on women’s rights and poverty in Peru and had interviewed several members of the Peruvian Congress. Peru charged her with "treason against the fatherland of Peru" and sentenced her to life in prison, without parole. However, Peru didn’t offer any evidence that Lori did anything wrong. A hooded tribunal of military officers, with no legal training and a documented 97% conviction rate, tried and condemned her; Lori was not allowed to cross-examine the government witnesses, nor to present evidence in her own defense. To condemn her, Peru had to break four binding international treaties on legal rights, and even their own constitution. For years, Lori sat in a frigid prison high in the Andes, with no windows and no heat; her hands turned purple.

It seems likely that Peru condemned Lori for political reasons. Her arrest occurred just as the U.S. was approving Israel's sale of Qafir jets with US-made engines to Equador, with whom Peru was fighting a border war. Peru's President Alberto Fujimori also used Lori to make political hay at home; he showed her picture on Peruvian national TV several times, to tout how tough he is on criminals and how he won't be "pushed around" even by the United States. In April 2009, Fujimori was found guilty of mass murder and kidnapping and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Peru has a history of harassing, imprisoning, and even executing reporters and human rights investigators. Amnesty International declared that Lori is a political prisoner, and that Peru’s prosecution of her did not comply with international human rights standards. The United Nations High Commission on Human Rights declared that Lori has been arbitrarily deprived of her liberty. The U.S. State Department claimed that they did everything possible, but actually did essentially nothing. Many of Lori’s supporters felt that the inaction by the State Department was due to attempts by the U.S. to develop better economic relations with Peru and the region.

Lori was married in 2003 to Anibal Apari Sanchez, a fellow prisoner who attended law school and became a lawyer after his release. In 2009 she gave birth to a son in prison. After spending more than 14 years of a 20 year sentence, her release was announced on Wednesday, May 26, 2010, and is expected to be released on parole as early as Thursday.


Lori Berenson is a social activist who was born in New York but spent her adult life in Central and South America. While an undergraduate at MIT, she volunteered with the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). She left MIT before graduating, to work with CISPES and subsequently worked in El Salvador as secretary and translator for Leonel González, a leader of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) working to overthrow the Salvadoran military dictatorship. Gonzalez is currently the Vice President of El Salvador.

After political reconciliation came to El Salvador Berenson moved to Peru and was writing articles for two progressive US magazines. On November 30, 1995 Berenson was arrested on a public bus in downtown Lima, accused of leading an insurgent organization, the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). She was sentenced to life for "treason against the fatherland" by a hooded military tribunal using antiterrorism legislation. Four-and-a half years later, due to international pressure, her sentence was vacated and she was retried by a civilian court under the same antiterrorism legislation.

No comments:

Post a Comment