Peru Justice Ministry recommends Berenson be expelled

Justice Minister Victor Garcia Toma will recommend to President Alan Garcia that recently paroled New Yorker Lori Berenson’s sentence be commuted and the US citizen expelled from Peru, state news agency Andina reported.

Garcia Toma said the ministry’s recommendation is to expel Berenson “immediately,” based on a legal and political analysis of the situation.

“I don’t think Lori Berenson can create harm for society, but she has created anger among citizens,” Garcia Toma said.

The recommendation will be given to President Garcia when he returns from the United States, where is meeting with U.S. counterpart, President Barack Obama, members of congress and representatives from U.S. companies.

“Neither the pardon nor the commutation are a right,” said Garcia Toma. “They are discretionary and they don’t create a precedent. In one case it could be granted and in another case it could not be granted. It is dependent on judgment, prudence and the assessment of the situation.”

Garcia Toma said, however, that if the president does not expel Berenson when he returns, the US citizen will be forced to leave Peru when she completes the remainder of her sentence in 5 years.

Berenson, 40, was freed on May 25 by a Peruvian judge after spending 15 years of her 20-year sentence behind bars for collaborating with leftist Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) guerrillas during the 1990s.

Her release was based on a legislative decree that was passed in 2003 during the administration of former President Alejandro Toledo. The decree allows inmates who were charged with terrorism to gain conditional parole when they have completed three-quarters of their sentence.

Berenson has maintained her innocence, arguing that she was a political prisoner.

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