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Peru TV Shows Imprisoned American

November 5, 1998

LIMA, Peru (AP) _ The smiling but pale-looking American serving a life term for terrorism embraced her parents in her cold Andean prison, television footage showed Thursday, revealing the first public images of Lori Berenson since shortly after her arrest nearly three years ago.

Pro-government Channel 2 said the video of the New York native was taken secretly by an amateur photographer during her parents’ Oct. 24 visit to Socabaya prison, 465 miles southeast of Lima.

Berenson, who has had health problems and looked pale and thin, smiled as she hugged her parents on the prison’s sunny patio. She was wearing black pants, a long-sleeved, white shirt and glasses.

The video, taken at a distance and out of focus at times, showed the American inmate shivering at the cold as she entered a prison building with her parents, who brought her Chinese food from New York.

Channel 2, which did not reveal who took the 40-second clip, said it showed that the 28-year-old Berenson was healthy. But her mother, Rhoda Berenson, disagreed.

``Did the video show her hands? Can it show if a person has a serious disease?″ she said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from her home in New York.

Berenson was transferred a month ago to Socabaya prison from frigid Yanamayo prison 12,700 feet high in the Andes mountains for medical tests.

Doctors say she suffers from swollen, arthritic hands, bronchial and throat problems, and chronic gastritis from the prison food.

Berenson was convicted in a 1996 secret military trial of helping leftist rebels of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement plan a thwarted assault on Peru’s Congress.

She was presented to the news media on Jan. 8, 1996, after her capture in a wild spectacle in which she shouted her support for Peru’s poor.

``She has not been seen by the public since that date. She has been hidden away,″ said her father Mark Berenson, also interviewed by the AP.

Her parents say she is innocent and that her secret trial didn’t allow her a fair defense. Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori has said she is a terrorist and will not be given special treatment.

The U.S. government has asked Peru to give Berenson an open, civilian trial, arguing that the secret proceedings denied her due process.

In 1992, with Peru battling two leftist insurgent groups, the government began holding secret trials for suspected rebels in which judges wore hoods or sat behind one-way glass to hide their identities. Officials claimed that civilian courts were releasing too many suspects because judges feared reprisals.

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