Terrorized Colombian Judge Flees Bench Seeking Asylum in United States
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ The day a voice on the telephone invited Colombian judge Clara Parra to her own funeral, she knew it was time to get out.
The judge - who worked in a ″red zone,″ so designated because of drug- trafficking and guerrilla violence - packed her bags, collected her 16- year-old son and left for Massachusetts. She is now seeking asylum in the United States.
Unlike most defections, Parra’s has the support of the country she fled.
″Her career as a judge and as a lawyer in Colombia is almost finished, so we need her to be a legal citizen in the United States,″ Colombian Consul Bertha Ospina said.
″We’re not asking for money or anything like that. We’re asking only for permission for her family and her to live here with legal permission so she could work.″
Ospina wrote a letter from the Boston consulate to U.S. authorities in support of the asylum request, and a hearing has been set for Oct. 5.
Parra, a municipal judge in Guamal, Colombia, who had been on the bench since 1985, said the threatening calls began in January 1989.
″In April of this year I received a last call by which I was invited to my funeral on May 5th, whereupon I could not bear it any longer,″ she wrote in her petition for asylum filed in July.
″I asked what they wanted. They never answered,″ Parra, 41, said in a recent interview. She said she doesn’t know who threatened her - she issued dozens of search warrants and detention orders against drug traffickers and guerrillas - and still wonders how the callers got her unlisted phone numbers.
″I lost confidence in everybody,″ she said.
Drug lords in Colombia have threatened to kill 10 judges for every trafficker extradited to the United States, and more than 200 judges have been killed as Colombia stepped up law enforcement efforts, Ospina said.
It’s unusual for a country to back one of its citizens in a quest for asylum elsewhere, immigration officials said.
″If the Colombian government wants to go on record that the individual would be subject to persecution on return to that country then we would have to take that under consideration,″ said Timothy Whelan, deputy district director for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Parra is seeking U.S. residency for herself and her son, as well as for an older son sent to study in Texas before the death threats. She went to western Massachusetts because she has relatives there.
Eighteen-year-old Mauricio Parra said his mother did the right thing.
″They tell you that they’re going to kill you. Sooner or later they’re going to do it,″ he said.