Latin America & Caribbean

Peru court paroles Lori Berenson for second time

Lori Berenson (16 August 2010)
Image caption Berenson had originally been freed in May

A court in Peru has granted parole for a second time to an American woman imprisoned for aiding a left-wing rebel group.

Lori Berenson had served 15 years of a 20-year sentence when she was freed on parole in May.

But she was returned to jail in August on a technicality.

She has apologised for working with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement and has denied having been a member or taking part in "violent acts".

The 40-year-old show no emotion as the court ruled she should be freed.

As part of its insurgency, the Tupac Amaru robbed banks, kidnapped and killed a number of people in the 1980s and 90s.

The Marxist group was active at the same time as the Shining Path guerrillas, who unleashed a brutal civil conflict in which nearly 70,000 people were killed.

Rebel contacts

The daughter of university professors from New York, Berenson travelled to Central and South America in the 1990s.

During her travels, she is believed to have made contact with the Tupac Amaru.

She was arrested in November 1995 after she gained access to the Peruvian Congress alongside the wife of the Tupac Amaru leader, using what the authorities claimed were false journalistic credentials.

Military prosecutors accused her of gathering information for a rebel plot to kidnap members of Congress and exchange them for imprisoned rebel leaders.

She was convicted of treason by a military court in 1996 and sentenced to life in prison. But she was retried in a civilian court after pressure from the US government.

In 2001, she was found guilty of the lesser crime of terrorist collaboration and imprisoned for 20 years, five of which she had already served. Her family maintained she was a social activist who was wrongfully convicted.

She gave birth to a son, Salvador, in prison in May 2009, and was released under parole a year later after a judge determined that she had exhibited good behaviour.

However, polls suggested Peruvians widely disapproved of the decision to release her.

In August, a court revoked her parole, saying that other legal authorities had failed to verify residential addresses in Lima that she had provided.

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