President Charles M. Vest welcomed the news Monday that former MIT student Lori Berenson's life sentence for treason had been voided in Peru and she would receive a new trial.
Dr. Vest said, "We hope that she is freed on bail while she awaits trial, or at least is moved to a less isolated prison where the conditions are more humane and she has greater access to her family and attorneys."
Ms. Berenson, 30, was convicted in a secret military trial in 1996 for allegedly planning a rebel attack. She claims she was not permitted to cross-examine prosecution witnesses or present evidence at the trial.
Peruvian military authorities overturned her sentence on August 18 and sent the case to a civilian court for a new trial. The decision was announced Monday. Ms. Berenson's Peruvian attorney, Grimaldo Achahui, said she would remain in prison while awaiting the new trial.
Ms. Berenson spent the first three years of her sentence in an isolated prison in the Andes that is 12,700 feet above sea level, where she suffered severe health problems. She was transferred to a prison 465 miles southeast of Lima last year.
Lori's parents, Rhoda and Mark Berenson, issued a statement at a news conference in New York Monday in which they thanked their daughter's supporters for their help over the years. The statement continued: "We still have a lot of work ahead... We do not believe it would be possible for Lori to get a fair trial in Peru, even though she is innocent. Now we must pressure the US government to bring Lori home in freedom."
Ms. Berenson was in her sophmore year studying anthropology and archaeology when she left MIT in 1988 to go to El Salvador. She moved to Peru in the early 1990s.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on August 30, 2000.