WASHINGTON: Soldiers sue to come home

It is “a question of fairness,” active duty Army Specialist David Qualls told a press conference, Dec. 6. “I served five months past my one-year obligation and I feel that it’s time to let me go back to my wife.”

Qualls and seven other Army Reserve soldiers, identified as “John Does” to protect them from Army intimidation, have filed suit in federal court requesting to be immediately released from active duty.

The suit is the first filed by soldiers on duty in Iraq. Qualls was home on leave.

In June, the Army imposed a “stop-loss” policy, canceling its contracts with tens of thousands of reservists that said that their service would last one year. In 2003, Qualls signed a contract for one year with the Arkansas National Guard. The Army said Qualls will remain on duty until sometime in 2005.

The soldiers’ attorney, Staughton Lynd, charged the Army violated its terms of agreement with the soldiers and misled them. The contract soldiers signed made no reference to an extension of active duty due to a national emergency. The suit names Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as the plaintiff.

SACRAMENTO, Calif.: Repressive ‘parade law’ repealed

On Nov. 30 the Sacramento City Council unanimously repealed the “prohibited equipment” section of the city parade ordinance, which it had unanimously adopted in 2003.

The original ordinance outlawed, at parades, demonstrations and picket lines, signs and sign holders more than a quarter-inch thick, gas masks and armored vests, glass containers, bandanas and a host of everyday objects that could conceivably be thrown, such as marbles, batteries, cell phones and key rings.

It was passed in near-secrecy after federal agents told the council that Sacramento faced “another Seattle” from a planned protest at an international meeting where the U.S. Department of Agriculture touted use of chemicals and genetically modified seeds.

Over 35 people were arrested at the demonstration on the basis of this law, but later the ordinance was not enforced, and the City Council declared its intention to modify the measure.

Lawyers, civil rights advocates and community leaders filled several council sessions to call for complete repeal, pointing out that the law trespassed on First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceful assembly, and that the ordinance, which would also have made the Veterans Day and Memorial Day parades illegal, was not uniformly enforced by the police.

“Demonstrations allow people with no other means to be heard,” said Ethan Evans, leader of the Sacramento Housing Alliance (SHA), which represents homeless and low-income people fighting for affordable housing. All of SHA’s demonstrations, primarily of homeless women and children, have been in violation of this ordinance, he told the council.

A minority of the council’s members voted for repeal only after assurances that a rewritten version of the controversial section would eventually come before them.

“This is a victory as long as they include the public from the beginning in the rewrite of the provision. Otherwise we will be fighting for our civil rights again,” said Heidi McLean, spokesperson for the Sacramento Coalition for Sustainable Agriculture.

DETROIT, Mich.: Kurdish restaurant owner fights deportation

Ibrahim Parlak was granted political asylum by the U.S. in 1992. Two years later he opened a restaurant, Café Gulistan, in the resort town of Harbert on Lake Michigan.

On July 29, 2004, the U.S. government arrested Parlak under the USA Patriot Act, alleging ties to a terrorist group. On Dec. 6, Parlak was in court with an attorney before an immigration administrative law judge.

The government allegations stem from a 1988 firefight on the Syrian-Turkish border where two Turkish soldiers were killed. Parlak was convicted of participation in Turkey. The U.S. government threw in three terrorism charges in October.

Denying all charges, Parlak testified he was with a group of Kurds escaping from Turkey into Syria. “I wasn’t going in for a gunfight,” he said. Supporters joined Parlak in court, saying that he was seeking to escape a regime that persecuted Kurds. Twelve years ago, the U.S. government officially agreed.

The judge can either deport Parlak or set him free. A decision is expected by mid-December.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com).
Gail Ryall contributed to this week’s clips.