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Soldier who sued over extension is hospitalized

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A soldier who was supposed to return to Iraq after losing a legal bid to remain at home in Arkansas has been hospitalized for "intense distress," his lawyers said yesterday.

An attorney said Specialist David Qualls, one of eight soldiers challenging the Army's authority to extend their service, said his client feared a hostile reception from the US military if he had returned to Iraq as scheduled Sunday.

After a judge ruled against him, Qualls "received word from Iraq that he would be retaliated against upon his return," attorney Jeffery Fogel of the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement.

"As a result, he suffered intense distress and is now under examination at the VA hospital in Little Rock," Fogel said. "We hope the Army will recognize the seriousness of this situation and, at a minimum, act to ensure that Mr. Qualls is protected if and when he returns to Iraq."

The VA hospital in Little Rock said Qualls, 35, actually was in the veterans hospital in North Little Rock, which treats military personnel for emotional and psychological problems.

David Lerner, a spokesman for the New York-based center, said attorneys have asked the federal court in Washington, D.C., to ensure that Qualls won't be punished by the military because of his lawsuit, which is under review.

Qualls, of Morrilton, and the seven other soldiers are challenging the Army's policy requiring them to serve longer than the terms of their enlistment contracts.

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