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Peru OKs Lori Berenson's trip to New York

LIMA, Peru -- Peruvian migration officials gave paroled U.S. activist Lori Berenson permission yesterday to leave the country with her toddler son to spend the holidays with her family in New York City, her father said.

Authorities had barred her from boarding a flight to New York on Friday night, despite a court's approval, saying she needed an additional document.

"She called and said, 'I've got the permission to leave' and the next step is for her to get on a plane and get here," Mark Berenson said by phone from New York. He said he did not yet know when his daughter would be flying home for her first trip out of Peru since her 1995 arrest for aiding leftist rebels.

When she was paroled last year, the 42-year-old had served three-quarters of a 20-year prison term on a conviction of accomplice to terrorism.

Mark Berenson said he had gone to sleep Friday night expecting to pick up his daughter and a 2-year-old grandson, Salvador, the next morning. Instead he was awakened with the disappointing news and spent the rest of the night angry and unable to sleep.

Lori Berenson, accompanied by two officials who appeared to be from the U.S. Embassy, spent yesterday morning at Peru's main migration office in downtown Lima and left shortly after 1 p.m. in a dark SUV with diplomatic plates.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy, Mary Drake, said consular officials were providing assistance to Berenson "as they would to any citizen."

Her lawyer, Anibal Apari, says migration officials at the airport had barred her from boarding the Friday flight because she lacked an "exit order," a document he said doesn't exist.

Apari, who is Salvador's father and is amicably separated from Berenson, called the government move "an abuse of authority."

State anti-terrorism attorney Julio Galindo told reporters on Monday that Berenson had erred by not seeking such a document before trying to leave Peru.

He also said judicial authorities had failed to properly notify migration officials of the court decision last Thursday that granted Berenson permission to leave the country from Dec. 16-Jan. 11.

The court had decided that Berenson was not a flight risk.

Mark Berenson told the AP that his daughter has every intention of returning to Peru. Galindo had opposed Lori Berenson's parole from the start, and succeeded last year in having her returned to prison on a technicality for 21/2 months until a court ordered her freed in November.

-- AP

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