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American Lori Berenson freed from Peruvian prison after 15 years

May 27, 2010 |  3:48 pm


Lori Berenson, a New York-born activist convicted of aiding Peruvian guerrillas in the 1990s, has emerged from prison, paroled after serving 15 years of a 20-year sentence.

Berenson and her husband-lawyer Anibal Apari Sanchez, a former guerrilla, had to virtually fight their way through crowds of reporters and TV crews Thursday to reach their car and drive off (and then have a minor wreck with a camera truck a few blocks away).  The chaos is captured, rather chaotically, on a video found here. And you can see the CNN Spanish-language service video account here.

Berenson was convicted in 1996 of collaborating with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, leftist rebels who sought the overthrow of the Peruvian government, blew up banks, took hostages and killed people — but who were never as vicious as the more infamous Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path.

A judge granted parole  to Berenson on Tuesday under a law that allows some prisoners to be released after completing two-thirds of their sentence. As The Times' Chris Kraul reported, her family's efforts over the years to gain her release were undercut when, at a public news appearance, she clenched her fist and defiantly described Tupac Amaru as revolutionaries, not criminals.

Berenson, who gave birth to a son while in prison, may not find freedom so welcoming. Neighbors in the upscale Miraflores neighborhood where she is to live were already grumbling bitterly about the "terrorist" in their midst.

— Tracy Wilkinson in Mexico City

Photo: Lori Berenson as she leaves prison near Lima, Peru. Credit: Associated Press.