Lawyer says American Lori Berenson has turned self in to police after a court ordered arrest

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

American activist turns self in to Peru police

LIMA, Peru — An American activist convicted of aiding leftist rebels surrendered to police on Wednesday after a court ordered her arrest and struck down a decision granting her parole.

Lori Berenson’s husband and lawyer, Anibal Apari, said she had turned herself in to police after the decision by a criminal appeals court was announced. Apari spoke to reporters outside the U.S. Embassy.

Apari declined to say whether she handed herself over within the diplomatic mission, but police officers were seen entering the embassy compound.

“The only thing I can tell you is that Lori Berenson hasn’t fled the country,” he said. “Even though she disagrees with the court’s decision, she has turned herself in.”

“She’s calm. She is a very strong women,” Apari said. “She is going to return to jail with her baby” — her 15-month-old son, Salvador.

The ruling by the three-judge panel of the criminal appeals court was announced two days after the 40-year-old New Yorker appeared at a hearing, apologizing for her crime and asking the court to uphold her parole. Berenson told the court on Monday that she regrets her actions and hoped to focus on raising on her son.

She has served 15 years of a 20-year prison sentence for terrorist collaboration.

Berenson has acknowledged collaborating with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, but said she was never a member of the group nor involved in violent acts.

Deputy Justice Minister Luis Marill said the court struck down the May 27 decision that granted her parole — a decision that was widely unpopular in Peru.

After the announcement, journalists gathered outside Berenson’s Lima home, then later moved to outside the U.S. Embassy, suspecting she could be inside.

Julio Galindo, the government’s lead anti-terrorism prosecutor, told the Peruvian radio station Radioprogramas that the court had annulled the May 27 decision granting parole until an error is addressed — that Berenson had not promptly notified police of the correct address where she would live upon her release.

He said that once that error is addressed, the judge in the case, Jessica Leon, would be able to issue a new ruling.

Galindo did not elaborate, but it appeared the judge would be able to issue a new ruling and either grant or reject parole.

There was no immediate reaction from Berenson’s parents, who are from New York City and have been in Peru in recent days.

Berenson was initially accused of being a leader of the Tupac Amaru, which bombed banks and kidnapped and killed civilians in the 1980s and 1990s.

When she was arrested in November 1995 with the wife of the group’s leader, prosecutors said Berenson was helping plot a takeover of Peru’s Congress.

She was convicted of treason by a military court in 1996 and sentenced to life. But after an intense campaign by her parents and pressure from the U.S. government, she was retried in a civilian court. In 2001 it convicted her of the lesser crime of terrorist collaboration and sentenced her to 20 years.

Galindo, the prosecutor, has argued Berenson should be returned to prison and raised doubts about whether she has cut all links to the rebel group. He also has argued there were errors in the May ruling that granted parole, including that her time served in prison was incorrectly calculated.

Many Peruvians disapproved of Berenson’s release, and congressmen of multiple parties praised the ruling to send her back behind bars.

“I think we shouldn’t give a single millimeter to terrorism,” said lawmaker Carlos Raffo, who belongs to the party of former President Alberto Fujimori, during whose government Berenson was prosecuted and imprisoned.

(This version CORRECTS that authorities say the decision is not final, and removes reference to ruling not being appealable.)

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