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Ex-activist Lori Berenson granted parole in Peru

U.S. citizen Lori Berenson listens to the judge

U.S. citizen Lori Berenson listens to the judge before being granted conditional liberty in the Santa Monica prison court, in Lima. Berenson served 15 years of a 20-year sentence for terrorism. (Nov. 5, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

A former New York activist imprisoned for 15 years in Peru for aiding a left-wing rebel group was granted parole for a second time Friday.

Lori Berenson, 40, showed no emotion as the decision was read in a Peruvian court. But her mother, Rhoda Berenson, of Manhattan, said she spoke to her daughter briefly Friday and reported her daughter was very happy with the court's ruling.

"Of course she was very, very elated," Rhoda Berenson said Friday night. "She doesn't know exactly when she'll be out because there is paperwork to be done."

Lori Berenson was arrested on a bus in Peru in 1995 and charged with belonging to the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, or MRTA, an urban guerrilla group. She was convicted of treason by a military court in 1996 and sentenced to life in prison.

After pressure from the United States government, she was retried in a civilian court and in 2001 found guilty of the lesser crime of terrorist collaboration. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison - serving 15 years so far - and gave birth to a son, Salvador, in prison last year.

In a rare public statement, Berenson apologized publicly in August for working with the Marxist guerrilla movement.

"Yes, I collaborated with the MRTA. I was never a leader or a militant. I never participated in violent or bloody acts. I never killed anybody," she said at the time.

In May, Berenson was temporarily freed on parole but sent back to prison in August when a panel of judges ruled her release was flawed because police had failed to inspect the location where she was living while on parole in Lima.

"We're just happy once again, but it comes with the knowledge it's going to be appealed again. That's what happened in May," Rhoda Berenson said in an a telephone interview Friday. "We have learned over the years to temper our feelings because you have no idea what's happening tomorrow."

Rhoda Berenson, who now teaches at New York University but taught physics at Nassau Community College until her retirement in 2000, is scheduled to fly to Lima tomorrow to see her daughter and 18-month-old grandson who has been sharing a prison cell with his mother and another female inmate.

"He'll be able to go to the park to play with other children," said the excited grandmother, whose last visit was a few weeks ago.

Under Peruvian law, Rhoda Berenson said her daughter must remain in Peru for the five years she's on parole and must obtain work there. However, she is hopeful the Peruvian government will allow her daughter to come home sooner.

Rhoda Berenson said her daughter plans to work as a Spanish translator for the Office of the Americas, a California-based nonprofit organization that promotes human rights, peace and justice. Lori Berenson will also take online courses at New York University to enhance her skills.

"She can work. She can be free," Rhoda Berenson said.

With AP

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