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Amnesty Says American Soldier Is Prisoner Of Conscience

February 7, 1991

LONDON (AP) _ An American soldier serving a five-month jail term for refusing to go the Persian Gulf is a ″prisoner of conscience,″ according to Amnesty International.

The international human rights organization gave Army Sgt. George Morse, 25, the designation on Wednesday. He was the first American to be so designated by Amnesty International since 1987.

Morse, of Grayling, Mich., had been in the service for seven years and was serving his second hitch when he sought conscientious objector status in November.

He was court-martialed at Fort Riley, Kan., and found guilty on Dec. 17 of eight counts of failure to obey orders as his unit was preparing to go to Saudi Arabia.

Morse was demoted to private, and he still faces a bad-conduct discharge when he finishes his jail term.

″Since November last year, the U.S. government has not allowed soldiers to apply for conscientious objector status until their unit has reached its final destination,″ Amnesty International said in a statement.

Amnesty International spokeswoman Anita Tiessen said the organization was convinced that Morse was sincere in seeking the status.

His mother, Lorna Morse, said from Grayling that her son was fine, but ″feels very concerned about all the destruction and the welfare of his peers. That weighs very deeply in his heart.″

Mrs. Morse said she and her husband, George, have been active in the local anti-war movement.

″I and my husband believe that war is totally wrong,″ she said. ″With nuclear weapons, there’s no such thing as a just war anymore.″

Her son is allowed to call the family once a week, she said.

Morse, who played trumpet in the 1st Infantry Division band, was assigned to division headquarters as a military police officer. The infantry was activated on Nov. 8 and Morse requested conscientious objector status Nov. 23.

He had been scheduled for an honorable discharge on Dec. 20, but the Army canceled that, Amnesty International said.

Ms. Tiessen said the group was monitoring several hundred conscientious objector cases in the United States.

The last prisoner of conscience recognized by Amnesty International in the United States was Stacey Merkt, a volunteer at a shelter for Central American refugees in San Benito, Texas. She was involved in the sanctuary movement for Central American refugees.

She was sentenced to 179 days in jail in 1984 for conspiring to transport illegal aliens into the United States. Amnesty International designated her a prisoner of conscience when she began serving her sentence in January 1987.

She was released in April to serve the rest of her sentence under house arrest, according to the organization.

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