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Peru judge grants parole to New York activist

Wed., May 26, 2010, midnight

She spent 15 years in prison for aiding leftist rebels

LIMA, Peru – A judge granted parole Tuesday to Lori Berenson, the 40-year-old New York activist who has spent 15 years in Peruvian prisons on a conviction of aiding leftist rebels.

Judge Jessica Leon granted a request by Berenson, who gave birth a year ago, for conditional release at a hearing at the Lima prison where the American has been held since January 2009.

She said, however, that Berenson cannot leave Peru until her sentence for terrorist collaboration ends in November 2015. Berenson nodded assent but did not speak when asked by the judge if she accepted the decision.

“I’m happy with the sentence because justice was done,” said her lawyer, Anibal Apari, who is also father of Berenson’s child, Salvador.

Apari said Berenson, whom he met in prison and married in 2003, would be freed within 24 hours. Their child has been living with his mother in prison since his birth last May.

Apari is a former member of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, or MRTA, the now defunct leftist band of which Berenson was convicted of helping.

Berenson’s father Mark, a former Baruch College statistics professor, was overjoyed at the news. “I let out a shout that I think my daughter heard in Peru.”

Berenson had for many years denied any wrongdoing, maintaining she was a political prisoner and not a terrorist.

But her defense team said in papers submitted to the judge that she “recognized she committed errors in involving herself in activities of the MRTA.” She said in her parole request that she planned to work as a translator if released.


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