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Lori Berenson returning to U.S. after 20 years in Peru

LIMA, Peru - American activist Lori Berenson is finally heading home to New York, two decades after being found guilty of aiding leftist rebels in Peru.

The 46-year-old has been living quietly in Lima with her 6-year-old son since her 2010 parole because she was barred from leaving the country until her 20-year sentence lapsed. Berenson told The Associated Press that occurred on Sunday.

Fearing being mobbed by reporters on departure, she would not disclose details of her travel plans. She said she obtained a bachelor's degree in sociology online last year and plans to live in New York City with her parents until she gets established.

U.S. activist Lori Berenson attends a hearing in Lima, Peru, Aug. 16, 2010. A court has revoked her parole and ordered her back behind bars.
U.S. activist Lori Berenson attends a hearing in Lima, Peru, Aug. 16, 2010. A court has revoked her parole and ordered her back behind bars. AP Photo/Martin Mejia

A daughter of college professors, she dropped out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and headed to Latin America to support leftist movements. She worked for El Salvador rebels before traveling to Peru in late 1994.

She was convicted of "collaborating with terrorism" for assisting the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement as it prepared in 1995 to seize congress and take lawmakers hostage.

Berenson denies knowledge of the plot, but she rented and lived in the safe house where it was being planned and was arrested with the wife of a rebel leader after visiting congress with a journalist's visa.

She was initially convicted of treason in 1996 by a court of hooded military judges and sent for nearly three years to a frigid prison at 12,700 feet altitude, where her health suffered.

After U.S. pressure and a legal defense aided by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Berenson was retried in a civilian court in 2001.

Berenson apologized publicly in 2010 as a condition for obtaining parole but was re-incarcerated for three months that year on a technicality.

She and her son Salvador, who was born behind bars, vacationed with family in New York in December 2011, but Peru's Congress subsequently passed a law barring foreigners convicted of terrorism-related crimes from travel.

Berenson is amicably divorced from the boy's father, a former Tupac Amaru militant she met in prison in 1997.

Alberto Fujimori, who was president when Berenson was arrested, is now imprisoned in Peru on human rights and corruption convictions.

The Tupac Amaru group was much smaller and less violent than the fanatical Shining Path, which battled the government from 1980 to 2000. The conflict ended with Fujimori's flight into exile. A truth commission determined that nearly 70,000 people died in the conflict. Tupac Amaru was deemed responsible for 1.5 percent of the deaths.

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