By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
HARBERT — Ibrahim Parlak blasted the Turkish Consulate on Tuesday over claims it made about the Harbert restaurateur fighting deportation.
Parlak hosted his second press conference in as many months at his Cafe Gulistan, this time to address a letter the Turkish Consulate sent to U.S. Rep. Fred Upton last week about Parlak’s alleged past in Turkey.
“The letter had false accusations and lies. Turkey is making those claims and somehow DHS (the Department of Homeland Security) is taking them seriously,” Parlak said. “It’s surprising to see the Turkish government’s response comes after I had applied several times for travel documentation over the years with no response.”
The Consulate’s letter stated that Parlak deliberately misled U.S. authorities about his criminal background and his membership with the PKK Kurdish independence organization. The letter went on to detail alleged events about Parlak’s involvement with the PKK.
According to the letter, Parlak was sentenced to life in prison with his sentence later reduced to six years as part of the Turkish Republic Reintegration Act. Parlak then allegedly escaped from prison after serving 16 months before illegally entering the U.S. as a fugitive.
During Friday’s news conference at his Harbert restaurant, Parlak produced documents showing his release from Turkish prison. Parlak said he has dozens of boxes filled with documents concerning his past, which he keeps at his home and restaurant.
Martin Dzuris, a New Buffalo resident and Parlak supporter, sat beside Parlak and explained why he believes the Turkish government is focused on his longtime friend.
“We believe it is due to the situation with the Kurds. Turkey is under enormous pressure from the international community on how it’s handling the Kurds,” Dzuris said. “The media’s coverage of Ibrahim’s situation doesn’t make Turkey look good either. It’s bad publicity for them. The only thing Ibrahim has been convicted of was separatism. Nothing else.”
Robert Carpenter, Parlak’s attorney, said they received a government brief last week concerning Parlak’s motion to reopen his case for re-examination under the Convention Against Torture – an international law that protects refugees from being returned under threat of torture or death.
Carpenter said among the 20-some page document, the government produced two main arguments against reopening Parlak’s case before the Immigration Review Board.
“The government argued that we had not shown that Ibrahim would be singled out for persecution,” Carpenter said. “The day (the brief) was filed was the day the (Turkish Consulate) letter was sent. There is a bit of irony there, since that letter is proof that Ibrahim will be arrested and tortured if he returns to Turkey.”
Another argument made against Parlak in the brief included a generalized condition of Turkey and that the country hadn’t changed much in the 11 years since Parlak’s previous request was first considered.
Despite producing testimony from two experts on Turkish affairs, Carpenter said the brief called Turkey’s current state “another bump in the road.” Parlak and his attorney have since countered with a reply brief, including the Turkish Consulate letter in their response.
“The argument that this is more of the same is disappointing,” Carpenter said. “The Kurds are being persecuted with an alarming degree of brutality. The frequency is constant right now and the methods are far worse than they have ever been.”
Now Parlak waits for the Immigration Review Board’s decision on the motion to reopen his case. Carpenter said in the past it has taken the board two to seven months for a decision.
Because Carpenter is unsure of when the board’s decision will come, Parlak has asked the Department of Homeland Security for another extension on a deferral of deportation. In December, Parlak was given a 90-day extension, which ends in late March.
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Feb. 24, 2016)