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American granted parole after 15 years in Peruvian prison

Lori Berenson was granted parole Wednesday after serving 15 years in a Peruvian prison on terrorism charges. She may be released within 24 hours.

Berenson, 40, was convicted of helping leftist rebels of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) plan an attack on the Peruvian Congress building. She was originally sentenced to life imprisonment by a military tribunal in 1996. But after years of pressure from the U.S. State Department and human rights groups, she was retried in a civilian court in 2000 and given a reduced sentence.

The LA Times reports:

At her trial, Berenson was accused of producing a rough blueprint of the congress building to aid rebels in the takeover. Her family’s efforts to reduce her sentence or have her transferred to a U.S. prison were undercut when, at a public news appearance, she clenched her fist and defiantly described the MRTA as a revolutionary and not a criminal group.

Berenson is an MIT drop out and the daughter of two college professors.

In recent years, Berenson acknowledged wrongdoing and “recognized she committed errors in involving herself in activities of the MRTA,” reported the Washington Post.  Judge Jessica Leon wrote in her decision that  Berenson had “completed re-education, rehabilitation and re-socialization” and exhibited “positive behavior.”  She spent much of her sentence in “harsh mountain prisons,” according to the Post.

Public opinion in Peru is staunchly anti-rebel, says the LA Times, and “talk shows were full of commentary by citizens expressing their disagreement with the release.”

Once freed, Berenson must remain in Peru through 2015. She will be the single mother of a son who was born last year and has been living with her in prison, according to the Post. The father is her lawyer, whom Berenson married in 2003.