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Peru judge reinstates parole for US woman held for involvement with rebel group

A Peruvian judge on Saturday reinstated the parole of Lori Berenson [advocacy website], a US citizen held since 1995 for collaboration with a Marxist rebel organization. Berenson has served three-quarters of a 20-year sentence, making her eligible for parole [AFP report]. She must now remain in Peru until the end of her parole, though the government may elect to commute the remainder of her sentence and deport her. Berenson was arrested in 1995 for involvement with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], a left-wing rebel group. She is alleged to have trained guerrillas [Guardian report] and moved weapons for the MRTA in addition to assisting the group carry out an attack on the Peruvian Congress [official website, in Spanish] by gaining access to the body using press credentials.

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. In a 2000 CBS News interview [text], Berenson characterized her original trial proceedings as hostile and coercive, saying that she had faced a panel of hooded judges and that armed guards had aimed assault rifles at her and her lawyer's heads during the 10-minute proceeding. 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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