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Peru high court upholds sentence against American

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

LIMA, Peru -- Peru's Supreme Court has upheld a 20-year prison sentence against American Lori Berenson for collaborating with leftist rebels to seize Congress, the presiding justice said Monday.

Guillermo Cabala said that four of the five judges on the panel that oversees criminal appeals voted to confirm the 20-year sentence. One judge voted to reduce the sentence.

The panel was Berenson's last option for an appeal in the Peruvian justice system.

Cabala said the judges voted last week, but the decision was only announced Monday.

Berenson, 32, was convicted in June of terrorist collaboration in a failed bid by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement to take over Peru's Congress in 1995. She was acquitted of being a member of the rebel group.

The New York native was sentenced to 20 years in prison but is due to be released in 2015 because she had already served five years under an earlier terrorist conviction by a secret military tribunal.

In 1996, a military court of hooded judges sentenced Berenson to life in prison without parole on charges she was a rebel leader. After years of pressure from the United States, a higher military tribunal overturned the ruling in August 2000 and sent her case to a civilian anti-terrorism court.

Berenson considers herself a political prisoner and says authorities unfairly portrayed her concern for social justice as a terrorist agenda.

posing as a journalist to enter Congress to gather intelligence with a top rebel commander's wife.

Berenson says she didn't know her housemates were rebels, and hired the commander's wife as a photographer to help with articles she was writing for magazines in the United States.

Berenson considers herself a political prisoner and says authorities unfairly portrayed her concern for social justice as a terrorist agenda.

Her parents, Mark and Rhoda Berenson of New York, have begun a campaign to pressure Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo to grant her a pardon. Peruvian officials had declined to comment on the possibility of a pardon as long as the case was in the courts. There was no official reaction to Monday's verdict.


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