Peru president says annoyed by Berenson trip to NY

AP News
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Posted: Dec 31, 2011 2:47 PM
Peru president says annoyed by Berenson trip to NY

Peru's president said Saturday that he is annoyed a judge granted a holiday trip to New York for a U.S. woman convicted of aiding guerrillas in the country.

President Ollanta Humala told RPP radio that there is no guarantee Lori Berenson will return to Peru by the court-ordered deadline of Jan. 11. He called the judge's decision "totally strange."

Berenson, who was arrested in 1995, had served 15 years in prison after her conviction of being an accomplice to terrorism. She was released on parole last year.

Berenson has acknowledged helping the Tupac Amaru rebel group rent a safe house where authorities seized a cache of weapons after a shootout with the rebels. She insists she didn't know guns were stored there and says she never joined the group.

"I can't help but show my annoyance, my disappointment at this situation, in which terrorists are being allowed to leave the country while still on parole," Humala said.

It was the first time the president publicly expressed an opinion about Berenson's departure from Peru on Dec. 19. He said it was odd the judge hadn't sought any guarantee from the U.S. Embassy that she would return.

The 42-year-old Berenson traveled to New York City with her 2-year-old son, Salvador, after receiving a court's approval for the trip. She has insisted she plans to return to finish serving her parole.

U.S. Embassy officials could not be reached for comment on Saturday, but Berenson's lawyer in Peru, Anibal Apari, said the president's comments were "out of bounds" because he should maintain neutrality on judicial matters.

He also insisted Berenson will return.

"There are no reasons why she would not return from the United States," he said. "Nobody wants to live as a fugitive from justice."