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Berenson says she was barred from leaving Peru
LIMA, Peru (AP) — Paroled U.S. activist Lori Berenson said Saturday that she and her toddler son were not permitted to leave Peru despite being granted permission in court to spend the holidays in New York with her family.
“They didn’t let me leave and they’re putting out this version that I arrived late,” she said in a brief phone conversation with the Associated Press, referring to media reports citing unnamed airport officials.
Her lawyer, Anibal Apari, accused the government of making an arbitrary political decision to halt her departure. He said it had provided no official explanation for not allowing Berenson to board a New York-bound flight the previous night.
“An abuse of authority has been committed,” Apari told the AP. “Administratively, you can’t block a court order.”
Phone calls to Interior Ministry officials seeking an explanatoin were not immediately returned.
Berenson, who was paroled last year after serving 15 years for aiding leftist rebels, was given permission to leave the country beginning Friday with the stipulation that she return by Jan. 11.
She had been denied such permission in October, but a three-judge appeals court on Wednesday overturned the lower court judge’s ruling.
Peru’s anti-terrorism prosecutor, Julio Galindo, told the AP that he had on Friday asked the court that approved Berenson’s leave to nullify the decision because it violated a law prohibiting paroled prisoners from leaving the country.
Galindo’s move was precisely the kind of action feared by Berenson’s parents, who did not respond to phone calls seeking comment on Saturday.
The prosecutor had opposed letting Berenson out of prison before her 20-year sentence for aiding terrorism ends in 2015, arguing that it would set a bad precedent for the early release of others convicted of terrorism-related crimes.
Berenson’s father Mark told the AP on Friday that he was “petrified” that negative local reaction could prevent the trip, including celebrating his 70th birthday Dec. 29.
“My worry is that there’s going to be screaming to stop this,” he said. Some Peruvians consider his daughter a terrorist and have publicly insulted her on the street.
Mark Berenson said his daughter had every intention of returning to Peru.
“As Lori says, if she doesn’t come home, let Interpol arrest her,” Mark Berenson said.
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