Berenson Gives Birth In Prison

Lori H. Berenson, a former MIT undergraduate, gave birth to a baby boy named Salvador Anespori Apari Berenson Wednesday while serving a 20-year sentence in Peru for collaborating with the leftist rebels of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, the Associated Press said. Berenson and the father of her son, Anibal Apari, a former member of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, met in prison and were married in 2003.

Under Peruvian law, Berenson is permitted to raise her son in prison until he is three years old. She will become eligible for parole in November 2010, according to the AP. Apari was released from prison in 2003 and is currently a lawyer in Lima. Berenson’s sentence will end in 2015, and she will then be expelled from Peru.

Berenson was a student in the anthropology and archaeology section of the humanities department when she withdrew from MIT as a sophomore in 1988. Berenson first became interested in human rights activism during a UROP in anthropology, according to her parents. Berenson went to Peru as a freelance journalist for Third World Viewpoint and Modern Times.

She was arrested in 1995 and sentenced in 1996 by a Peruvian military court to life in prison for high treason and terrorist activity. A new trial in the civilian courts in 2001 saw her sentence reduced to 20 years for collaboration with the Tupac Amaru in their plans to attack the Peruvian congress in 1994 by renting a house and buying computer and communications parts for the rebels.

Berenson continues to maintain her innocence.

Berenson’s parents — Mark and Rhoda, college professors in New York City — say they are thrilled at the prospect of a grandchild, according to the Associated Press. Mark and Rhoda Berenson came to MIT in April 2000 and spoke to students, faculty, and other members of the local community about Berenson’s situation in an event cosponsored by MIT Amnesty International and the MIT Social Justice Cooperative. The Social Justice Cooperative also circulated a petition for Berenson’s release.

James Williamson, a local activist, presented a resolution expressing support of Berenson that was passed by the Cambridge City Council.

According to the New York Times, in 2000, Berenson was being held in isolation in a cell without light, heat, or running water.

Although the first trial in the military courts was called a “parody of justice” by Amnesty International, according to the New York Times, Ari Fleischer, a Bush aide, said that President Bush had not asked for clemency for Berenson since the second trial in the civilian courts followed due process. In addition, in 1999, the U.S. House of Representatives did not pass legislation that would have allowed only humanitarian aid to be sent to Peru unless Berenson was released.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was Berenson’s last chance at an appeal after her sentencing in the civilian courts, but in 2004 they upheld the civilian courts’ ruling.