Peru appeals court upholds release of US woman held for involvement with rebel group

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[JURIST] A Peruvian appeals court announced on Monday it has rejected the government’s petition to overturn a lower court’s decision to grant parole to Lori Berenson [advocacy website], a US citizen held since 1995 for collaboration with a Marxist rebel organization. According to Berenson and her lawyer, the ruling was final and cannot be appealed [AP report], representing a major setback [Bloomberg report] to the government’s efforts to return her to jail. Berenson’s release last year sparked angry public reaction [AFP report] in Peru, where she is widely remembered for her tirades in court during her televised trials in 1995. Berenson is obliged to stay in Lima for the remaining five years [NYT report] of her 20-year prison sentence unless her sentence is commuted by President Alan Garcia. If her sentence is commuted, Berenson would be deported immediately, allowing her to return to her native New York.

In November, a Peruvian judge reinstated [JURIST report] Berenson’s parole, prompting another appeal from the government. Berenson was originally granted parole [JURIST report] in May with the judge citing her good behavior, renunciation of violence and completion of rehabilitation. Judges for the court restored her sentence in August, however, after legal authorities failed to verify addresses of residence [JURIST report] provided by Berenson after her release. In 2005, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights [official website] denied an appeal to reinterpret its November 2004 ruling that upheld [JURIST reports] Berenson’s conviction. Lawyers for Berenson claimed that her trial failed to meet international standards for fairness and sought to have her conviction and sentence overturned. She was initially sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court, but the sentence was reduced to 20 years in a civil retrial in 2001.

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