Photo: Lori Berenson
UPDATE: Paroled U.S. activist Lori Berenson said Saturday that she and her toddler son were not permitted to leave Peru, despite being granted permission in court to spend the holidays in New York with her family.
Berenson did not provide more of an explanation in a brief phone call with The Associated Press
A Peruvian court has given paroled American Lori Berenson permission to travel to the United States with her toddler son to spend the holidays with her family, her attorney and estranged husband said.
“She’s traveling for family reasons to be with her parents” in New York, Anibal Apari, the Peruvian father of 2 1/2-year-old Salvador, told Efe Friday in a phone interview.
He said authorities on Thursday notified Berenson, who was paroled last year after serving most of her 20-year prison sentence for aiding leftist rebels, that she could travel to the United States between Dec. 16 and Jan. 11.
The decision has been harshly criticized by some in Peru, but Apari said the travel permission granted to the 42-year-old U.S. citizen was consistent with Peruvian law.
“The permits have a beginning and an end and she’ll be here when they run out,” Apari, who was released from prison a few years ago after serving time for rebel links, told Efe.
In statements to Radio Programas del Peru, Apari denied that the permission had been granted in “record time,” saying that Berenson put in the application two months ago and that such requests by former inmates currently on parole are routine.
Berenson was arrested in December 1995 as she was leaving the Peruvian Congress. Prosecutors said she entered the premises with false press credentials to obtain information on the building’s security systems for use in planning an attack by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, or MRTA.
A day after her arrest, police foiled an MRTA plot to storm Congress, take lawmakers hostage and exchange them for jailed leaders of the now-defunct rebel group.
One of the special military courts established by then-President Alberto Fujimori - now in prison for massacres - sentenced Berenson to life behind bars for treason.
The sentence was reduced to 20 years by a civilian court that retried the U.S. activist after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled invalid the verdicts handed down by the Fujimori-era panels.
In a public hearing in August 2010 before the National Penal Court, Berenson apologized for having supported the MRTA.
“Yes, I collaborated with the MRTA. I was never a leader or a militant. I never participated in violent or bloody acts. I never killed anybody,” she said at the televised court session. “If my participation contributed to societal violence I am very sorry for this.”
Berenson was released from prison in November 2010, but she must remain in Peru until 2015 unless the government decides to commute the rest of her original sentence and expel her.
Many in Peru were angered by Berenson’s parole.
Around 70,000 Peruvians died in politically motivated violence between 1980-2000. The biggest share of the killings is attributed to the Maoist-inspired Shining Path, with the security forces accounting for most of the rest.