Did Lori Berenson Deserve Such a Long Prison Term?

I know very little about the situation in Peru so I don’t feel comfortable commenting. But I thought this New York Times profile of her was quite fascinating. Was she a young and naive idealist unjustly punished? A defiant twit who willfully sided with terrorists? A little bit of both?

Yeah, she did. Every single day of it.
Naïvete cannot be even a remote excuse to justify participating in a plot to blow up a country Congress and consorting with terrorists. I repeat terrorists, not geurrilla or freedom figther. They killed, they protected drug taffikers, they kidnapped people for months, the planted car bombs and thouroughly attacked unamrmed civilians.
She knew whta she was getting at and if you come to my country and help terrorists, then you get the same treatment home-grown terrorists get.
If she didn’t like the condition of Peruvian prisons, she could’ve avoided them but staying out of my country and not helping terrorists.

ETA: The gufight in the house she “innocently” subletted happened 3 blocks from where I was living then. It was a nice quite night of hiding while thosands of AK-47 rounds flew around.

The article was very sympathetic, but I was sorta left wondering why. It seems from the article she was guilty as shit. The tone of the article was sorta like ‘oh, maybe she was guilty, but she was a young idealist who loved fluffy bunnies and walks in the park - surely they oughtta just let it ride’.

If I were Peruvian, I’d find that attitude more than slightly annoying, like working with terrorists was some sort of tourist indiscretion the Peruvians really ought to overlook. If some young Peruvian came to my country and joined in a plot to take Parliament hostage, damn right they’d find themselves in jail for a lengthy sentence.

Young white American women of course deserve more leniency that other people. That’s just common sense.

What did she actually do? The article didn’t make that clear.


Based on that conduct, I would say no, she did not deserve such a long prison term. Of course, I wasn’t living in Peru when a bunch of guerrillas were trying to spark an armed revolution and terrorizing the populace, so I can’t totally condemn their government’s no-nonsense response to the problem.

On the other hand, I once met a young man who did 6 months in federal prison for climbing over the fence at Fort Benning, in protest of the School of the Americas. He knew what he was doing was illegal, and it’s important to maintain the security of our military bases, but I still felt his punishment was excessive. I feel the same way about Bradley Manning being locked up in solitary for 23 hours a day.

I agree that this is a big factor. But it’s not just that people are more sympathetic to young white women (although that’s also true). It’s more that they have a very non-violent and non-threatening image, which frequently overshadows the actual evidence.

Yours is a very good example. Climbing the fence was clearly non-violent and done during peacetime, whatever the penalty.
Climbing over the fence a fort in Kandahar would be different thing.

Berenson was actively supporting and abetting a terrorist organization that committed kidnapping and murders. While her trial doesn’t meet the standards of fairness you’d expect in a civilized country, the evidence against her is pretty overwhleming and her claims of innocence are, to be quite honest, ludicrous.

15 years seems a little on the high side, but not excessive for someone who was conspiring to commit murder.

I never heard of her, but I remember the assault (I mean reading about it in the papers). Whether or not the plot was real and also how the assault was conducted was controversial at the time (maybe not in Peru, I wouldn’t know, but certainly over here).

Plus, Peru was presided over by this fucktard of Fujimori that I held and still hold in utter contempt. He’s barely is a step above Kadhafi in my reliability-meter. So, anything he ordered, or any statement made by his government was for me tainted by a high degree of suspicion.
So, even though, again, I had never heard of this woman, and lacking any information regarding her case, I’d unwilling to just accept as a given that her case was handled fairly.
That being said, the article (I didn’t read it thoroughly, because most of it was irrelevant stuff about her parents, her childhood or her walks in the park, so I might have missed something) didn’t give to me the image of an innocent girl deceived by terrorists. For one, she couldn’t have been that naive after her experience in Salvador. She could have been deluded, though, and her young age could be a cause. I’ve known a young political activist like that and she fits the profile. If I had to judge her solely on the basis of this article, I’d vote guilty, and 15 years would seem appropriate to me.

And it’s possible to tell that Ají’s blood pressure was shooting through the roof just by looking at the typos in the rest of that post…

How is “a revolutionary organization” that murders and kidnaps not terrorists? Being “revolucionario” automagically means your shit don’t smell and the people you murder don’t get dead? It is not my business, nor that of most posters in these boards, to decide what are the appropriate penalties for aiding and abetting murderers and kidnappers, but it seems quite clear that she did, and that she did it willingly and in full possession of her mental faculties. Therefore, she deserved whatever Peruvian law says she does.

This sums up my view on the subject.

Not to be a pain, since I agree with you in part, but she was in her twenties. We’re perfectly comfortable with sending soldiers (mostly male) who are substantially younger than her to go fight in wars, or to death row. For criminal purposes, calling someone in their twenties “young” doesn’t seem right.

Glad to know that we are free to dispense with the requirements of procedural justice when the accused is *obviously *guilty. One great cost- and time-saving measure I just thought of: when they’re obviously guilty, why even have a trial at all?!?

Also, Lord Macaulay, the nineteenth century called, they’d like their talk about “civilized” countries back.

I’m 45. I now perceive those soldiers as kids, and in fact it bothers me quite a lot that we send them in war zones.

I’ve no kids but my nieces are in their early 20s. I don’t perceive people this age as “full adults”.

No offense intended for dopers who are in their early 20s or younger, I’ve a great deal of respect for bright and/or level headed teens and young adults, despite not viewing them as fully mature.

What struck me most about the Wikipedia article was that the organization she was convicted of supporting, was, although a terrorist organization, not the worst terrorist organization plaguing Peru. I had somehow confused the Túpac Amaru (her terrorists) with the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). Not only were they different organizations, but apparently the Túpac Amaru, although bad guys, lacked the particularly unpleasant reputation of the Shining Path nasties. Even here in bourgeois America, I was aware that the Shining Path ruthlessly massacred peasants and assassinated political rivals on its own side of the political spectrum…but I didn’t know they fought against the Túpac Amaru.

That doesn’t make the Túpac Amaru nor Lori Berenson good guys by any stretch of the truth, but it’s interesting that they were not the worst of the worst, even according to the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission:

  1. If you will please consult with the OP, the question at hand was not whether Ms. Berenson’s trial was fair, but whether the sentence was appropriate, given the crimes she was convicted of.

  2. I am free to state my opinion of Ms. Berenson’s guilt, as I am a private citizen and not passing judgment in a court of law. In my opinion she’s guilty as hell and any damn fool knows it. Whether that makes her trial fair or not is, however, a different matter, and I think people should be given fair trials no matter how obvious their guilt.

What country did I say was uncivilized?

Frankly, the length of her prison sentence doesn’t concern me-it concerns the Peruvian courts.
Why do Americans think that they are immune to foreign legal systems?
It is kinda like those rich morons who sail their yachts into pirate-infested waters…and don’t think that they might get killed.
She got caught and now she’s in jail-too bad for her-maybe she should have thought about what she was doing.

I don’t know. Maybe we should think about it next time the United States tries a British nanny for allegedly murdering a child.