Journalist Who Criticized U.S. Policy Leaves Country
NEW YORK (AP) _ A Colombian journalist jailed and then ordered deported when she tried to visit the United States may never want to come back, but it is important that she have the right to do so, her lawyer says.
″It is terribly hypocritical to deprive some people of freedoms that we take for granted as Americans, simply because they aren’t Americans,″ said Arthur Helton, attorney for Patricia Lara.
Ms. Lara, 35, a reporter for the newspaper El Tiempo, was held in a cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center for five days under a law dealing with aliens suspected of communist, subversive or terrorist activity.
She left today for Bogota on a 10:30 a.m. flight from Kennedy International Airport, said Helton.
In an interview on Wednesday, Ms. Lara said she has written against U.S. policy in Central America and is the author of a book profiling Colombian guerrilla leaders.
″Maybe they (U.S. officials) didn’t like the book,″ she said. ″The last time I was here was in March and April, for vacation, and there was no problem at all.″
″What this points up is how vulnerable journalists are because in the course of their professional activities they have sources who themselves may be excludable under our laws,″ Helton said. ″That then makes the journalists vulnerable to the application of these laws.″
Helton said he did not think the Reagan administration has singled out journalists, but that it has used its exclusion power against many people ″with greater frequency″ than past administrations.
Donald Shanor, one of Ms. Lara’s professors when she was a student at Columbia University in 1980, said, ″If an American journalist from ABC went to Colombia and was detained without ever having the charges explained, this nation would be up in arms.″
Ms. Lara was taken into custody when she arrived at Kennedy International Airport on Sunday. She had come to New York at the invitation of the Columbia School of Journalism to attend the presentation of the Maria Moors Cabot prizes, presented annually to journalists who make ″distinguished contributions to inter-American understanding and freedom of information.″ She was not a recipient of the prize.
Ms. Lara’s name appears in the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s ″lookout book,″ which means she is temporarily excludable under the law that deals with aliens suspected of communist, subversive or terrorist activity, said Charles Troy, an agency spokesman.
Neither the State Department nor the immigration service would comment on the specific information the U.S. government has about Ms. Lara’s activities.
On Thursday, acting INS regional commissioner Michael D. Mosbacher ordered her deported. The agency also denied a request from officials at the Colombian Embassy in Washington that Ms. Lara be released into their custody so she could attend the dinner at Columbia University.
Helton said Ms. Lara was looking forward to leaving the country for Bogota to end what she called a ″nightmare.″
″She questions whether she wants to come back (to the United States) and wonders whether she’ll ever be allowed to come back in the future,″ he said. ″But it’s important for her to obtain the right to come back.″
In remarks at the awards dinner, Columbia president Michael I. Sovern said the detention of Ms. Lara was a curse on freedom.
″One of our guests, Patricia Lara, was not allowed to join us - not, as far as we can tell because of anything she has done but because of something she has said. That is an anathema to a free society,″ he said.
Sovern also called for the amendment of immigration law, which he said allowed deportation without a statement of charges or a semblance of a hearing.