Having spent 20 years behind bars in a Peruvian jail for actively supporting a ruthless terror organization that was responsible for the murders of over 1000 people, American citizen, Lori Berenson returned to her native New York on Thursday, a free woman.
Berenson, now 46, was found guilty by a Peruvian court for her involvement with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). According to published reports, between 1980 and 2000, the group killed perceived political opponents and in 1995, they planned to siege Peru’s National Congress and take members of the Congress hostage.
Despite evidence that has emerged of Berenson living in the safe house of the organization, she has consistently denied being a member of MRTA. In 2001, after American intervention, she was granted a new civilian trial in which she received a reduced sentence.
While in prison, Berenson gave birth to a baby boy named Salvador who is now six years old. He accompanied her on her journey back to New York and had left the terminal with Berenson’s parents, Rhoda and Mark Berenson, both college professors while his mother underwent a four hour interrogation by customs officials at JFK.
Her uncle, Ken Berenson, 70, waited for her throughout the lengthy interrogation process. She and her son will be staying with her parents in their Kips Bay apartment until she is settled, according to media reports.
Since her parole in 2010, Berenson and her son have lived a relatively quiet life in Lima but that was not always the case.
While as a student at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute for Technology in Cambridge in the 1990s, Berenson dropped out of college to travel to Latin America.
According to the NY Post report, while in Latin America she supported violent leftist rebels and in 1994 she traveled to Peru where she became heavily involved with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.
Berenson has denied having any knowledge of the group’s plan to storm Peru’s National Congress and take hostages but according to media reports, when the nefarious plot went awry, Berenson was rounded up along with the wife of the rebel leader.
In 1996, she was convicted of treason and “collaborating with terrorism” and sentenced to life in prison. She was sent to Yanamayo prison that was located on a high elevation in the Andes mountains. Ultimately, she only served 15 years of a 20 year sentence after her sentence was amended in 2001.
For her part, Berenson has apologized for her actions but adamantly denies that the Tupac Amaru was a terrorist organization.
Before leaving for New York, Berenson told the AP in an interview that, “It could have acted at times using terrorist tactics, but that it was a terrorist organization, I don’t think the label fits.”
She described her experiences in Peru as “incredibly surreal although entirely typical.”