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Free Lori From Peruvian Prison Cell

“It could be you or me. What happens to your life out there is not your destiny.” Over 200 people walked away from Union Square with this thought in September at a rally to show support for Lori Berenson, an American who has been a political prisoner in Peru since 1996. Working in Peru as a freelance journalist, she was arrested for alleged activity in the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, an organization tied to assassinations, kidnappings and drug-trafficking. According to her parents, at the trial Berenson was not allowed to offer evidence in her own defense; a hooded tribunal convicted her of treason and sentenced her to life in prison—no possibility of parole.

Since her arrest date, people worldwide have mobilized to show their support. Amnesty International has issued two Urgent Actions on her behalf. The Committee for Inter-American Human Rights created the Committee to Free Lori Berenson, its first project. The House of Representatives recently passed a resolution criticizing Peru for interference with the press and judicial and electoral institutions. Although the resolution doesn’t mention Berenson, it marked an important moment in the political support for her release.

Berenson’s imprisonment also has generated grass-roots support, including that of Great Small Works, which creates dramas on political issues and took up Berenson’s case in New York’s Union Square. Their play, “What You Do: The Story of Lori Berenson,” presented a 20-foot puppet of Berenson, wearing the label “The Truth” and offering counterpoint to the “official” version offered by Peruvian authorities.

After the play, Mark and Rhoda Berenson, Lori’s parents, addressed the crowd. They spoke of Lori’s ailing physical condition and her high spirits and passed out petitions to be sent to President Clinton. Clinton has remained largely silent on the issue, even in meetings with Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori. The Berensons suggested that New Yorkers should not elect Hillary Clinton to the Senate as long as her husband is contributing to Berenson’s incarceration. Visit the “Free Lori” website at www.freelori.org.