LIMA, Peru — Activist Lori Berenson walked out of prison with a smile on her face Thursday after serving three-quarters of a 20-year sentence for aiding leftist rebels.

The 40-year-old New Yorker squeezed through a police cordon holding back a mob of reporters at Santa Monica women’s prison and got into a black sedan that her husband and attorney, Anibal Apari, drove to the Lima apartment where she is to reside.

Their son, Salvador, who has been living with his mother since his birth a year ago, was taken to the apartment separately by Berenson’s parents. They flew in from New York City the previous night, and entered the prison before Berenson’s release.

Berenson never denounced the leftist Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, or MRTA, with which she was convicted of collaborating. Prosecutors said she helped the group plot a takeover of Peru’s Congress that never happened.

But documents that her defense team provided to the judge who granted her parole Tuesday said Berenson “recognized she committed errors” by getting involved with the rebels. She said Berenson must stay in Lima until her sentence ends in November 2015.

Peru’s justice minister, Victor Garcia, told the Radioprogramas network Thursday that the Cabinet could decide to commute the sentence and expel Berenson.

“This is a really nasty situation for Peruvians,” Garcia said, suggesting the government was not necessarily that pleased Berenson had the legal option of being deported.

It was unclear whether any other legal problems could complicate Berenson’s eventual return to the United States. U.S. Embassy spokesman James Fennell said he could not comment due to privacy laws.

The judge who paroled Berenson said she had “completed re-education, rehabilitation and re-socialization” and demonstrated “positive behavior.”

Berenson has long maintained she was a political prisoner and not a terrorist. She shouted to reporters in her first public appearance after her November 1995 arrest: “There are no criminal terrorists in the MRTA. It is a revolutionary movement.”

Berenson’s parole request said she planned to work as a translator and a dessert chef.


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