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Lori was depicted as a monster

March 19, 2002

I was surfing the web for websites discussing the case of my daughter Lori. I recall first seeing it when I was living in Lima last year during the public phase of her trial. At the time, it was too hectic for me to have the opportunity to really sit and read what you have put together.

Your website is extremely interesting and educational -- a reader can learn lots about Peru and its politics from your experiences there. With respect to Lori and some of the conclusions you have drawn, I think you have not provided sufficient information regarding her case nor insight into the Peruvian mindset in the post-Fujimori-Montesinos era. Let me explain.

You are completely incorrect in your statement that Lori must have been practicing her press presentation speech in her cell for hours. Her statement was extemporaneous. She had been told repeatedly she was not being charged as a leader and would not be presented to the press. On the 11th day in a small, filthy, rat-infested cell tending to a wounded woman being tortured through the denial of needed medical attention, Lori was furious and tired and was psychologically manipulated into speaking to the press by DINCOTE. When pressed to make a statement about the people whom she would be living with an requiring support from, she said she would speak and the officials immediately shackled her and took her across the street to the DINCOTE auditorium where the press had already been gathered. DINCOTE knew Lori was angry enough to want to speak and then she was coaxed to shout because the auditorium did not have a microphone on the stage -- some press conference!!!! The US Embassy was not notified nor was Lori's Peruvian lawyer. Your assessment of what she said is clearly the rhetoric of the Latin American movements you cite. But Lori did not need to prepare -- it was, and is, so much a part of her. It was that January 8, 1996 day (note 40 days after her arrrest), it was in the courtroom last year (note her words in her closing statement to the court which apologizes for her anger but not her words), and it is what defines Lori today. She came out on stage that January day unkempt, outraged beyond belief at the treatment of the other woman, and she reflected on this not only during her closing remarks but the day she was permitted to see the tape in the courtroom. Note the prosecutor, who had absolutely no real evidence of Lori's guilt, used as "evidence" Lori's January 8 coerced press presentation to argue that what she said in DINCOTE 40 days after her arrest is proof she was guilty of a crime before her arrest! Fujimori used to argue for his own political advantages that Lori admitted her guilt on that camera but even former Ambassador Dennis Jett, a man who has no love for Lori, defended her on July 1, 1998 (Assoc. Press) by saying she never admitted guilt or membership, she blasted the lack of social justice in Peru.

You say that only DFN has taken up Lori's case as a journalist. We have only requested the help of one other group -- CPJ -- but they could not do so because Lori had never published anything under her own name. The truth be known Lori did do some ghost writing in her Latin America experiences. The lesson for all is publish under your own name or make sure you get credit for what you do! As per one of your erroneous conclusions, Lori said in the courtroom she did not decide to write to make money, she wanted people to know a side of Peru that was not being told by the international press. She wanted US students and citizens to be more aware that the US-backed government of Fujimori-Montesinos was a dictatorship not really concerned with the poor. She was correct! As you pointed out, these magazines were not household words and not frequently published, but Lori looked at it as a start and she was in no particular hurry, she had no specific deadline. She had been in touch with her editors and she said in court that the articles were nearing completion when she was arrested. She also said in her closing speech that all her tapes and notes and writings have "mysterously vanished." She kept journals of her travels and her observations and her thoughts. Days before her arrest she told me of the tape she made for my 55th birthday (Dec. 29) -- she had recorded Peruvian love songs, Negro-Peruano songs, and Huanyo songs. That tape would have been proof of her interests in Peru and its culture. I asked Col. Gonzalez Sandoval for a copy of it when I went to DINCOTE that December but he said it was "evidence" and I could not have a copy. The tape was never evidence and was never presented in the civilian trial either -- it was conveniently lost!!!

Thank you for mentioning the other journalist organizations -- I will lobby them for support.

As to AI and HRW:A, I would agree they have not given the support I believe she should have had but both respected organizations have supported Lori over the years. If you read the annual reports of both you will see this. I am personally frustrated with AI because they have not declared Lori a prisoner of conscience. I biasedly say that there is no prisoner in the world more qualified for this title. AI betrays its own mandate which says you can be a prisoner of conscience if you are a member of a terrorist group as long as you yourself have not been involved in violence. Lori's recent Supreme Ct. decision confirmed she was not a member or militant of the MRTA and even one of the five judges (Presiding Judge Cabala) could not find evidence of collaboration -- he wanted to switch the charge to illicit association and reduce the sentence. Lori has always disavowed terrorist violence in all its forms and her work in El Salvador was strictly on the peace process and the forging of democracy once the civil war was over. AI takes its position based on support from the human rights groups in Peru who have never given Lori a fair evaluation -- these groups automatically did not want to help a "gringa" when so many hundreds of innocent Peruvians were being neglected. During the Fujimori-Montesinos years Lori noted the bravery of these organizations and its workers. Today, 16 months after the fall of the dictatorship, these groups have been surprisingly quiet, inactive, and basically useless! You mention IDL -- a USAID-funded organization that never sent anyone to meet Lori nor observe her trial.

The Peruvian mindset is something you neglect to report on -- and it is so important. Ronald Gamarro, now a procurador and former head of IDL was quoted in the NYTimes one year ago today (March 19) that if Lori gets a fair trial she will be convicted! How can a human rights champion and legal expert say this when her trial in the military courts with its tainted evidence was secret and when the investigatory stage of her civilian trial was also secret? Ombudsman Santestivan called Lori a terrorist before her trial started -- and his is a respected voice. And then there is Chief Judge Ibazeta who said "if Lori can convince us of her innocence she will be freed." The Peruvians have to be reminded that in their country today, as members of the OAS, one must be presumed innocent until proven guilty (Article 8 of the AMerican Convention on Human Rights). Of course Lori started her public trial in a cage -- giving the psychological impression of guilt and requiring her to prove innocence -- and then standing in front of the cage as an indication of where she was going when the trial was over.

You mention Lori's options. Her case is pending decision at the CIDH of the OAS. The bottom line is Peru has never changed its illegal and internationally condemned anti-terrorism laws that were put in place in 1992 not just to quash terrorism but also to quash all political opposition -- Fujimori and Montesinos were power-crazed bastards. Coordinadora Sophia Macher published in January 2000 the "44 Points to Establish Democracy and Human Rights" in Peru. 7 of these dealt with judicial reform for a judiciary that even today has not been cleansed of corruption. Point 10 urged the abolition of the anti-terrorism laws and retrials with sentences proportional to the crime committed. Nothing has happened -- now 2 years and 2 months later. Lori should never have been tried in the civilian court until it was cleaned up and the laws changed. Her trial was a farce. The Peruvian writer Gonzalez Viana said it was an inquisition, not a trial, and the Peruvian writer Pita said similar. From Rospigliosi (Caretas column) to IDL the judgment was that a 20-year sentence for Lori was absurd. Today these folks are very silent. This is politics, not justice.

Sadly, most Peruvians think Lori had a great trial. The media was extremely biased -- even recently she was compard with Osama bin Laden in Expreso and in the Congress newspaper El Heraldo. For five years Fujimori and Montesinos paid off the media to state the government propaganda. Lori was depicted as a monster. She could not change public opinion in her trial.

It was not sufficiently covered or appropriately reported. And sadly, even the finest legal minds in Peru have believed her trial was a good one -- they just don't understand real due process and real justice. They have been brought up and practiced in such a repressive society for more than 20 years that they just don't have this understanding in their experiences.

You can articulate these things in your columns better than I can but I just wanted to point out this important aspect that was missing from your endeavors.

I want to close by saying that inspite of it all, I have gotten to love Peru -- it is a country with a future -- and I pray for the success of the Toledo government in ending the misery and poverty that Lori complains about. Lori truly loves Peru and she hopes for the same. The people there have suffered enough -- they deserve it.

Mark Berenson