February 4, 1996 in Nation/World

Peruvian President Refuses To Intervene For American New York Woman Jailed For Life For Associating With Terrorists

Nathaniel C. Nash New York Times
 

The president of Peru said Saturday that he would not intervene in the case of a New York woman who has been convicted of treason for associating with a terrorist group and sentenced to life in prison.

“I do not have the right to say the sentence was just or unjust,” President Alberto Fujimori said in an interview here at a convention of hundreds of political, business and educational leaders.

“This was the judgment of a military court.”

The pronouncement by Fujimori comes just days after a military appeals court turned down a request for a lesser sentence by the attorney for the American woman, Lori Helene Berenson, who was convicted last month and sentenced to the maximum term for aiding Marxist guerrillas who prosecutors said were planning to seize the Peruvian Congress and take hostages.

The only hope Fujimori held out for Berenson, 26, was that she has one appeal remaining, to the Supreme Council of Peru’s Military Court of Justice.

“The Tupac Amaru movement has been responsible for many deaths and many bombings,” Fujimori said, referring to the terrorist group.

“If a Peruvian were convicted in the United States of being a terrorist and sentenced to life in prison, I would welcome the sentence. I would not try to get them out early or try to intervene. So I don’t see any reason why you should expect anything less of Peruvian law.”

The case underlines just how strongly Fujimori has polarized those in the international political community who have observed Peru.

On the one hand, Fujimori has come down so hard on terrorism - seizing wide powers in 1992 by shutting down the Congress and suspending the Constitution - that he has offended many who see such policies as nearly dictatorial. In particular, Peru’s system of faceless judges, which convicted Berenson, has been widely criticized abroad.

On the other hand, the president has had such success fighting terrorism - both the Tupac Amaru and the Shining Path guerrilla movements are mere shadows of what they once were - that foreign companies have flocked to Peru since 1992 to buy up state assets and mineral rights.

Moreover, much of the Peruvian population has welcomed Fujimori’s strong-man tactics.

“American investors we have spoken with were actually relieved that Peruvian police captured these terrorists,” Fujimori said.

“I think you have to remember that in the same week that Lori Berenson was sentenced to life in prison, a terrorist involved in the World Trade bombing in New York was also sentenced to life in prison.”

Fujimori predicted that such actions against the two terrorist groups would only lead to more foreign investment for his country.

Indeed, he has come to the Swiss alpine ski resort here at the annual World Economic Forum to “sell the image of Peru” to business leaders.

Along with more than a dozen heads of state and scores of government officials, he is holding a series of meetings with some of the biggest investors from Europe, Asia and America.


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