Peru Grants Berenson Civilian Trial

Before her conviction, Berenson was presented to the news media in a wild spectacle during which she angrily screamed support for Peru’s poor and shouted, “There are no criminal terrorists in the MRTA,” referring to the rebel group. “It is a revolutionary movement.”

The statement was considered by most Peruvians to be an admission of guilt.

Berenson and her supporters have maintained that she was not allowed to present evidence at her trial or to question prosecution witnesses.

The government maintains that secret military proceedings with hooded judges were necessary during Peru’s bloody battle with leftist rebels because civilian courts were releasing too many suspects and judges feared reprisals. The practice was abolished in late 1997.

Peru’s internal war against leftist rebels reduced dramatically in intensity after the capture of top rebel leaders in 1992, but more than 3,000 convicted rebels remain in Peru’s prisons.

Magazine Investigation

Berenson’s case was the subject of an in-depth investigative story in The Nation magazine’s Sept. 4 edition, which appeared Monday on the U.S.-based publication’s Web page.

Drawing on never-before released Peruvian police documents obtained by the magazine, in collaboration with Peruvian journalists, the article claimed that the case against Berenson was hastily thrown together based on the uncorroborated testimony of a lone witness whose version was never challenged.

Although The Nation article acknowledges strong circumstantial evidence that Berenson was closely associated with the rebel group, it asserted that little strong evidence existed that Berenson was an MRTA leader or member.

Fujimori has faced increasing pressure to reform Peru’s damaged democracy since his highly questioned re-election in May, which was marred by irregularities and accusations of fraud. For years, reforming Peru’s judiciary has been high on the list of human rights groups.

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