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Judge grants asylum to onetime IRA bomber Brian Pearson

March 27, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ A former Irish Republican Army soldier won political asylum in the United States on Thursday, escaping a government effort to deport him as a convicted terrorist.

Brian Pearson, 45, served 12 years in prison for a 1975 bombing of the Royal Ulster Constabulary barracks in Northern Ireland. He argued that his was ``a political act″ under U.S. immigration law, not terrorism.

In his 43-page ruling, Immigration Judge Philip Williams said the RUC’s ``atrocious acts″ against Northern Irish Catholics made the barracks a ``legitimate target ... under international law and the laws of war.″

``We get to say words very seldom heard in 800 years of Irish history _ we won,″ said Pearson’s attorney, Martin Galvin.

Pearson legally entered this country in 1988, overstayed his visa and applied for asylum last year when U.S. officials moved to deport him. Galvin said that would subject him to reprisal by pro-British forces.

The case was the first decided under the immigration law passed by Congress last year, and could set a precedent for six other cases pending against five ex-IRA men in the New York area and one in St. Louis, Mo.

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