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Monday, 18 February, 2002, 21:22 GMT
Peru confirms US woman's jail term
Lori Berenson
Berenson said she only shared some rebel views
Peru's Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by an American woman, Lori Berenson, against her conviction for terrorism.

The judges upheld her 20-year jail term by a margin of four to one.

Berenson, 32, was found guilty of collaborating with left-wing rebels in a plot to blow up the Peruvian congress.

She has always denied the charges which led to the 1996 trial, which she said were politically motivated.

It was not clear whether Berenson herself, who began a hunger strike on Monday in support of jailed leftist rebels, had been informed of the ruling.

Mark and Rhoda Berenson
Berenson's parents have campaigned ceaselessly
But her father said he was not surprised.

"I'm optimistic we'll get her home eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later. I'll be fighting like hell for it," Mark Berenson told Reuters from his home in New York.

He said he would ask for help from US President George W Bush, who makes an official visit to Peru on 23-24 March.

Conviction overturned

The ruling in Lima exhausts all avenues of appeal in Peru for Berenson, a New Yorker arrested in late 1995 and jailed for life as a leader of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) by a hooded military judge.

Her conviction was overturned in 2000 and a civil retrial ordered.

That court convicted her last June of helping MRTA rebels, with whom she lived, to plot an attack on the congress and sentenced her to 20 years.

With time already served, she faces life in jail until two weeks after her 46th birthday.

Berenson's only options now are:

  • to ask the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to refer her case to the region's top rights court

  • to hope for a pardon from Peru's President Alejandro Toledo

  • to ask to serve her sentence in a US jail - something she has said she will not do this because she considers herself innocent.

See also:

22 Jan 02 | Americas
Berenson's lawyer 'not optimistic'
20 Mar 01 | Americas
American 'guerrilla' retried in Peru
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