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Berenson returns to Peru from U.S. to serve out parole

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 6 Jan 2012 04:38 GMT
Author: Reuters
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LIMA, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Lori Berenson, a New Yorker who spent 15 years in Peruvian prisons for aiding Marxist insurgents, returned to Lima on Thursday to serve out her parole after visiting the United States for the first time since her 1995 arrest.

Berenson, 42, the mother of a 2-year-old boy, was paroled in 2010 after serving 15 years of a 20-year sentence. A judge gave her permission to travel last month and she spent 17 days in the United States.

She did not speak to reporters as she arrived with her son, Salvador Apari, at Lima's airport.

The judge said Berenson had until Jan. 11 to return to Peru. But many Peruvians, including President Ollanta Humala, said there was no way to force her to come back and worried she would fail to return to serve the rest of her parole.

At the time of her release from prison, Peru's government resisted calls to commute what remained of her sentence so she could relocate permanently to the United States.

Berenson was a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before becoming involved in social justice issues in Latin America. She was pulled off a bus in Lima more than 16 years ago and charged with belonging to the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, or MRTA - an urban guerrilla group.

The MRTA was active in the 1980s and 1990s when a larger insurgency, the Maoist Shining Path, also tried to topple the state.

While in jail, she became known as an accomplished baker, participated in talent shows of inmates and had a child with Anibal Apari, a former member of the MRTA.

Her neighbors in Lima shouted insults at her after her release in a country where people still are traumatized by memories of a long civil war that killed 69,000 people.

Berenson was never convicted of participating in violent acts but was found guilty of providing support to the MRTA. She says she was imprisoned for renting a house where MRTA members stayed.

A military tribunal initially sentenced her to life in prison using counterterrorism laws. She was retried in a civilian court and her sentence was reduced after pressure from her parents, human rights groups and the U.S. government. (Reporting By Terry Wade; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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