No more prison for Lori Berenson: Peruvian court

The US activist wants to return to New York and devote herself to her son.

Last Updated: Jan 25, 2011, 10:06 AM IST

Lima: A Peruvian appeals court rejected a prosecutor`s attempt to revoke the parole of US activist Lori Berenson, who was released in May after serving 15 years for aiding leftist rebels.

Berenson and her attorney said on Monday that the ruling is final and cannot be appealed by prosecutors, ending eight months of excruciating legal purgatory.

"I`m pleased with the decision and grateful for it," Berenson said by telephone, adding that she was "greatly relieved”.

"The only thing that she can do now, with tranquillity, is to plan her life," said Anibal Apari, her attorney and the father of Berenson`s 20-month-old son, Salvador.

Under her parole, the 41-year-old New Yorker cannot leave Peru until her 20-year sentence ends in 2015 — unless President Alan Garcia decides to commute it. He has said he would consider doing so only once the legal case ran its course.

Constitutional law expert Mario Amoretti agreed that the ruling should be final. He said the state could conceivably file a challenge claiming a constitutional violation but that he didn`t see the grounds for such an appeal.

Berenson was first freed in May only to be sent back to prison for three months on a technicality. The judge who originally granted parole reinstated that decision and released the New Yorker again, but anti-terrorism Prosecutor Julio Galindo continued to appeal.

The three-judge appeals court`s decision — dated January 18 but made public on Monday — rejected Galindo`s argument that, as someone convicted of aiding terrorists, Berenson should not have been able to use work and study to reduce her sentence.

The judges also cited a psychological report that said Berenson had "developed projects for a future life, grounded in motherhood" and had, in essence, been rehabilitated.

Asked what she plans to do now, Berenson said: "I`m just going to go on with my life, basically." She and Apari are separated, though the two remain close friends.

Berenson has said she wants only to return to her native New York, where her parents are university professors, and devote herself to Salvador.

Bureau Report