"This is more than a Harbert story. This is a national story. We are a nation of immigrants."
U.S. Representative Fred Upton (Michigan's 6th Congressional District - 8/30/2009)

 

 Give him Liberty or set him Free!

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KEY FACTS

Ibrahim Parlak is a Turkish Kurd who has lived in the United States since 1991.   He was arrested on July 29, 2004 and was held for ten months in the Calhoun County Jail in Battle Creek, Michigan.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is asking the Immigration Court to send him back to Turkey, and a hearing on the Government’s charges was held in Detroit on December 6 and 7, 2004.

CURRENT STATUS

Removal

  • Nearly two years after the oral arguments were heard in Cincinnati, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals returned a split decision (2-1) denying Ibrahim's appeal of the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals. Ibrahim's legal team is prepariing a brief to petition for review before all of the judges of the Sixth Circuit Court (due October 8th).
  • Oral arguments before the Sixth Circuit Court in Cincinnati are scheduled for October 22, 2007, with a decision from the Court expected in late 2007.
  • Final briefs were filed with the Sixth Circuit by both parties March 20, 2007.
  • Ibrahim's legal team filed the brief appealing the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals - 8/30/2006
  • BIA has dismissed our appeal regarding Ibrahim's deportation November 22, 2005.   You can read the decision here.   We have filed a Motion of stay of removal and DHS has responded.  You can read the briefs here.
  • Appeal filed on January 20, 2005 with the Board of Immigration Appeals.
  • Obtained documentation from Turkey stating it will not issue travel papers to him and in fact is not requesting his return to that country
  • The Judge ruled Mr. Parlak deportable to Turkey and denied his CAT (Convention against torture) application.
  • Hearing in the United States Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review Immigration Court held December 6-7, 2004.

Habeas

  • Ibrahim was released from jail June 3, 2005 on a $50,000 bond.   He remains free on bond.
  • Ibrahim was ordered released from federal custody Friday May 20, 2005 by United States District Court Judge Avern Cohn.
  • Writ of habeas corpus filed on March 3, 2005, with the Eastern District of Michigan.
  • Ibrahim Parlak remained in jail despite the fact he was not a threat to either his community or national security, nor was he a flight risk

BACKGROUND

  • born and raised in southeastern Turkey to a Kurdish family; active in Kurdish human rights movement in Turkey and in Europe
  • arrested and tried in a Turkish Security Court, one of the quasi - military courts finally dissolved by Turkey in 2004 under pressure from the European Union because of their lack of independence from the military and their systematic use of torture to obtain "evidence".
  • tortured repeatedly while being held incommunicado for more than three weeks in three Turkish police stations following his arrest in October, 1988
  • convicted of separatist activities under Article 125 of the Turkish Penal Code
  • served a 16-month prison sentence and was released in 1990.  Was re-sentenced in 2004 to less than the time already served.
  • Turkish citizenship has been revoked
  • granted political asylum in the U.S. in 1992 on the grounds that he had "established a well-founded fear of persecution upon return to [his] homeland".

In the U.S.

  • 16-year, legal law-abiding resident in the U.S.
  • father of ten-year-old daughter, Livia, a U.S. citizen
  • homeowner and business owner, employing local residents
  • community volunteer and contributor to charitable causes; strong support from friends and neighbors (200 signed affidavits in his support)
  • over 2,000 signatures on petitions supporting Ibrahim

CHARGES AND RESPONSES

The Department of Homeland Security’s charges against Mr. Parlak and his answers to those charges are as follows:

  1. Charge: Fraudulently and willfully misrepresenting facts about events in Turkey in papers requesting permanent residence
    Response: Mr. Parlak was represented by legal counsel throughout his dealings with the Immigration Service since arriving in this country in 1991.  His English language skills were virtually nonexistent when he arrived and were not much better when he applied for permanent residency in 1993.  Nevertheless, when Mr. Parlak applied for asylum in 1991, he was as forthcoming as someone without the ability to speak or understand English could be.  The disclosure of his membership in the ERNK and its close ties to the PKK, his stay at a PKK camp in Lebanon before entering Turkey illegally in 1988, and his arrest, conviction and imprisonment in Turkey were all well documented in his application and the materials he submitted with it.  He even included a Turkish newspaper article that gave a full account of the Turkish government’s charges against him in 1988.


  2. Charge: Engaging in persecution by virtue of his alleged membership in the PKK, an alleged terrorist organization
    Response: The recent hearing underscored the cruel irony of the "persecutor" charge.   In grade school, Mr. Parlak was constantly told that "Turkish blood is great," but that Kurds are "like donkeys."  Beatings and torture of Kurds by the Turkish authorities were routine.  Kurds were not allowed to sing their songs, dance their dances, or speak their language.   According to Prof. Michael Gunter, who testified at the hearing on December 7, the Turkish government framed Kurds for crimes they did not commit.  Extrajudicial murders occurred even though Turkey had outlawed the death penalty.


  3. Charge: Being convicted of an "aggravated felony" or a "crime of violence" after admission to the U.S.
    Response: Mr. Parlak’s conviction of an "aggravated felony" occurred in Turkey, before he arrived in the United States.  Moreover, he served his sentence in a Turkish prison and was released in 1990.  The Government’s charge in this case is based on a 2004 Security Court re-sentencing decision in Mr. Parlak’s case that reduced his sentence to less than time served.  Mr. Parlak paid his debt to Turkish society, whose laws he allegedly violated in 1988, before he came to the United States.  The Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed this charge.


  4. Charge: Committing a "terrorist act" while in Turkey by using a weapon with "intent... to cause death or seriously bodily injury."
    Response: This charge requires proof of the "use" of a weapon with intent "to cause death or seriously body injury."  The Board of Immigration Appeals did not review this charge, and thus dismissed it.


  5. Charge: Providing "material support" for "terrorist activity" while in Turkey in 1988
    Response: To the extent this charge relates to Mr. Parlak’s alleged military activities, there is no basis for it other than the Turkish Security Court’s uncorroborated assertions.   To the extent it is based on Mr. Parlak’s nonviolent activities on behalf of Kurdish rights, DHS’s charge would make "terrorists" out of hundreds of thousands of Kurds, and Kurdish sympathizers who seek to advance human rights through nonviolent means, not to mention countless others who similarly support Palestinian rights in the Middle East or Catholic rights in Northern Ireland.  It was a crime in Turkey to work for Kurdish rights even by nonviolent means.  The Government of the United States, where (a) freedom of speech and (b) the right to petition the Government for the redress of grievances are enshrined in the Constitution, should not make itself an accessory to Turkey’s violations of human rights in 1988 by claiming such activities are also illegal under U.S. law.


  6. Charge: Soliciting "funds or other things of value" for a "terrorist organization" while in Germany in the mid-1980's
    Response: This charge requires proof that Mr. Parlak solicited "funds or other things of value" for a terrorist organization."  DHS relies solely on proof that, while he was in Europe, Mr. Parlak helped arrange Kurdish folklore entertainments as a way of perpetuating Kurdish culture.  Mr. Parlak agrees with the government that money raised by ERNK in connection with those entertainments could have gone to the PKK, but he did not know of it happening and he did not solicit anything for that purpose.   Furthermore, the U. S, Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has published a list of known sources of terrorist funding since 1993.  Over the years, this list has included "front" organizations for Al Qaeda, the IRA and Hamas.   The ERNK has never been included in this list.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Is Ibrahim Parlak a terrorist or a member of a terrorist organization?

No. Mr. Parlak does not now endorse and has never endorsed the use of violence to achieve political ends.   He has never been a terrorist and has never used violence against anyone.   His activities on behalf of Kurdish rights in Turkey were entirely political and cultural.

Is he a member of the PKK?

No.  Mr. Parlak has never been a member of the PKK.  He was a member of ERNK, an organization that had ties to the PKK but that promoted Kurdish human rights through nonviolence.

What did Mr. Parlak do as a member of the ERNK?

He was working for Kurdish human rights.  He wrote articles about the Kurds, helped Kurdish immigrants in Europe find work and housing, and worked to preserve the Kurdish heritage, including its language and culture.

Is the PKK a terrorist organization?

The PKK was classified by the United States Government as a terrorist organization in 1997, and it is clear that the PKK, through its military affiliate, ARGK, committed terrorist acts.

Was Mr. Parlak convicted of murder or other crimes of violence in Turkey?

No.  Mr. Parlak was convicted by the Turkish Security Court of participating as an accessory to the crime of seeking to separate a portion of the land under the sovereign control of the government of the Republic of Turkey.  The Security Court based this ruling on its assertion that Mr. Parlak was present in the area of a border skirmish in which two soldiers died and had fired his gun randomly.  The Court stated that evidence has not been obtained showing that Parlak has shot or was the actual offender in the killing of the soldiers.  Mr. Parlak testified that he never fired his weapon during the border skirmish, or at any other time, and the Security Court’s lengthy decision cites no evidence to the contrary.

Has Mr. Parlak committed any crimes against the U.S. government or U.S. interests abroad?

No.  Never.

Has Mr. Parlak committed any crimes against anyone while in the United States?

No.

 

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."
Abraham Lincoln