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Peru: US Prisoner Transfer Possible

February 5, 2000

LIMA, Peru (AP) _ An American woman convicted and imprisoned in Peru for aiding leftist rebels might be allowed to serve her time in the United States, the country’s prime minister said Friday.

New York native Lori Berenson, 30, has been held for four years in Peruvian prisons following her treason conviction in 1996.

Prime Minister Alberto Bustamante said late Friday that Peru’s law could be changed to allow people convicted of treason to be eligible for a prisoner transfer treaty, which is in effect between the two countries.

However, Berenson’s father Mark Berenson, reached at his New York home, said Bustamante is simply offering his daughter an opportunity she has already rejected.

He said Berenson could have requested to be transferred to a prison in the United States at any time before October 1998, when Peru’s Congress passed a law at President Alberto Fujimori’s request excluding people convicted of treason from taking advantage of the treaty.

``Lori never ever would make that request,″ he said. ``For three years, Lori had this option and for three years Lori said ’I am not guilty, I am not a criminal.‴

A military judge, wearing a hood to protect his identity to guard against reprisals by rebels, convicted Berenson of treason for helping to lead a thwarted assault on Peru’s Congress by leftist Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement rebels.

Berenson’s supporters have argued that her treason conviction was illegal because she is not a Peruvian citizen.

The 30-year-old New York native and her family say she did not receive a fair trial in the secretive military court. Her parents have campaigned to free her or have her receive an open civilian trial.

Berenson carried out a two-week hunger strike last month to protest her four years of imprisonment.

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