Protection of American Citizens Abroad - Berenson's defense

In the second trial, the defense was afforded more opportunities to plan and present its rebuttal to these allegations. Berenson spoke frequently in fluent Spanish. American reporters noted her cool self-possession and were struck by her quick, articulate responses to questions. Peruvian prosecutors, however, described her as an unrepentant, calculating, and dangerous terrorist.

Berenson described her political views as "slightly to the left" and affirmed her deep sympathy for Peru's impoverished people. Peru, she said, must undergo a revolution before the status of the poor could be improved. She said repeatedly that the revolution she envisioned would not—indeed, could not—emerge from terrorism. It followed, therefore, that she was not a terrorist and had no sympathy for those employing terrorism. When asked how these views squared with her association with the MRTA, Berenson refused to condemn the organization. She knew its members only as people who were working peacefully to bring about the kind of revolution that she had in mind.

The defense denied any deal with the MRTA. Berenson had indeed met the man whom the prosecution claimed was an agent of the organization, but she knew nothing of his alleged links to terrorists and she had not taken any payments to become their leader. Moreover, she was completely unaware of any links between the MRTA and tenants in her house or her photographer. The men on the top floor of her house had used assumed names and concealed their store of arms and explosives. She had hired the photographer solely because she was skilled with a camera.

Berenson, the defense continued, was a journalist who had been drawn to Peru by the country's rich history as well as the plight of its poor. Prior to her arrest, she knew nothing of any plans to seize members of Congress, and she had not knowingly provided her acquaintances with any assistance that might serve this purpose. Finally, the defense charged the prosecution with using tainted evidence to make its case. A man convicted of terrorism had served as the government's witness, testifying that Berenson had been paid to come to Peru to assist the MRTA. Other potentially damaging evidence, such as the detailed drawing of the Congress building, had been forged. In summation, the defense dismissed the government's case as flimsy and irrelevant. The government had not brought charges against Berenson because it had uncovered incriminating evidence of terrorist activity. She was on trial as a symbol of the government's determination to wipe out terrorism.

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