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USA vs. Rafil A.Dhafir

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    United States of America v Rafil A.Dhafir: Individual Responsibility and Complicity By Katherine Hughes November 3, 2005 http://www.dhafirtrial.net Are we a
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2005
      United States of America v Rafil A.Dhafir:
      Individual Responsibility and Complicity
      By Katherine Hughes
      November 3, 2005

      Are we a society that now calls this justice? Dr. Rafil A. Dhafir was
      sentenced to 22 years in federal prison on Thursday, October 27th,
      2005 for sending humanitarian aid to starving Iraqi civilians through
      his charity Help the Needy. Dr. Dhafir is an esteemed member of the
      Muslim community here in Syracuse, New York, and he is respected
      nationally and internationally. His sentencing follows 31 months of
      detention without bail and a 17-week trial. The government presented
      its case in minutia 7 government agencies investigated Rafil Dhafir
      for 5 years; the defense called one witness for 15 minutes. One of Dr.
      Dhafir¹s lawyers commented in summation that the only government
      agency not represented was the Fish and Wildlife Service. The 60-count
      indictment included International Emergency Economic Powers Act,
      IEEPA, violation, money laundering, wire fraud and Medicare fraud, and
      the government won conviction on every count except one where they had
      mistakenly listed the wrong bank.

      I believe it is impossible to overstate the message that has been sent
      to the Muslim community via this detention, prosecution and
      sentencing. It says, in no uncertain terms: ³If we can get Rafil
      Dhafir, we can get anyone². It also lets them know that a pillar of
      their society can be felled without so much as a call for equal
      justice from the non-Muslim community.

      Even as a person who is not Arab or Muslim, these messages frighten
      me. I have spent my entire life secure in the knowledge that my civil
      rights would be respected, as a consequence of attending this trial I
      no longer believe that to be true.

      Attorney General Ashcroft announced on the day of Dr. Dhafir¹s arrest,
      February 26, 2003, that supporters of terrorism had been apprehended.
      And in August 2004, just before the trial started, New York Governor
      Pataki reiterated this charge. Local prosecutors successfully lobbied
      the judge to deny Dr. Dhafir the right to defend himself against this
      charge at trial, but they then brought the charge back for his sentencing.

      I attended virtually all of the 17-week trial and took notes for 5
      hours each day. I am extremely troubled by Dr. Dhafir¹s detention, the
      presentation of the government¹s case during the trial, and the fact
      that a jury gave the government a unanimous verdict, on what I
      perceived as an extremely weak case. I believe other people should
      have grave concern for what is happening, not only in this case, but
      also in similar cases across this country. I am presently going
      through the 60-Count indictment to show why I do not believe the
      government proved their case.

      I did not know Dr. Dhafir before attending his trial. Everything I
      know about this man comes directly from the proceedings. I thought my
      sharply different experience of the proceedings would be cause for
      discussion in the press, at least, if not concern. The trial struck me
      as similar to the show trials of the former Soviet Union in the 1930s
      that I have seen. There were days when I literally cringed because the
      evidence of the government was so weak. One small example of this
      weakness was a bar chart that the government had made about Dr.
      Dhafir¹s billing practices to Medicare, as compared to some other
      physicians. The bar graph showed Dr. Dhafir¹s bar as being about
      7 inches tall and the other 6 or 7 physicians as having bars of
      between approximately 1 and 3 inches (people should check the
      transcript for exact details of the bar graph). The woman who
      presented the bar chart as evidence, Nina Carousella, did not know the
      area that the bar graph covered, or what types of physicians the other
      physicians were. Given that Dr.

      Dhafir was the only oncologist in Rome, New York, it¹s unlikely that
      many, if any, of these other physicians were Oncologists using
      expensive chemotherapy drugs.

      My concern for civil liberties and equal justice originates from my
      upbringing, and from a British documentary series ³World at War², that
      I watched as a 14 years old. I usually watched this with my family,
      but I was alone on a night the Allies were shown entering the
      concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen. Footage in the documentary showed
      bulldozers pushing heaps of skeletal bodies into pits and people who
      were walking cadavers. This left an indelible impression on me and
      spurred a lifelong search for understanding of how ordinary people
      could let something like this happen.

      I have read for 30 years, hundreds of first hand accounts of what
      happened in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. The similarities I see in
      this country at the present time are alarming. I could not understand
      how it had happened in Germany until this last year of trying to tell
      people about Dr. Dhafir¹s case. I took a year out from my studies
      because I believe passionately in the need to preserve civil liberties
      for all. I also wanted to alert others to the danger I perceived and
      worked at this like a full time job. I put in many 60 hour weeks,
      contacting individuals, religious groups, local institutions of higher
      education and media outlets about Dr. Dhafir¹s detention and trial, as
      well as keeping up my website about the case. I believed that if I
      alerted people they would want to find out more, but this belief
      proved to be totally naïve. Knowledge is a terrible thing; it throws
      you out of the Garden of Eden.

      Three of the defendants in the Help the Needy case have graduated from
      Syracuse University with advanced degrees, and many of the 150 mainly
      Muslim families interrogated between 6am and 10am on the morning of
      Dr. Dhafir¹s arrest, have ties to Syracuse University. I was present
      when one of the men told how the government agents had gone back 20
      years in his bank records because he had donated $150.00 to Help the
      Needy. And because he pays principal on his mortgage as well as
      interest each month, one agent asked him if his children had enough to
      eat. In a year of trying, I found a total lack of willingness to move
      anyone in the University community to even have forums on what was
      happening in front of our noses.

      Dr. Dhafir¹s case is one that sets legal precedents. And it also
      raises questions about selective prosecution and freedom of speech -
      Dr. Dhafir was a vociferous critic of the US policy in Iraq, as I
      witnessed in a fund raising video during the court proceedings. I
      believe this extreme outspokenness was a major contributing factor to
      Dr. Dhafir¹s present situation. Barrie Gewanter, Director of the
      ACLU-CNY, has stated that her organization has concerns about
      selective prosecution because comparable violations have been
      addressed with civil fines. This case is a remarkable teaching tool to
      have for law students, students of journalism, or any students.
      However, the faculty that I contacted at Syracuse University¹s Law
      School, Maxwell School of Citizenship and the Newhouse School of
      Journalism, had no interest in finding out anything about this case,
      or in making their students aware of the case.

      Dr. Dhafir wrote a 46-page pamphlet that was handed out to the media
      after he was sentenced. In one paragraph toward the end of the piece
      Dr. Dhafir says:

      ³What was the result of Feb 26, 2003 besides imprisoning of innocent
      people? Scores of innocent elderly American cancer patients died
      needlessly, innumerable tens of thousands of Iraqi needy (children,
      women and men) died, and more than that suffered malnutrition and the
      humiliation of poverty. An entire segment of our society here was
      treated as criminals, intimidated, interrogated and threatened. Never
      in the history of the Islamic Society of Central New York had we had
      so many cases of depression and suicide that the mosque had to engage
      the services of a psychiatrist to help out. The dream of this Republic
      being a sanctuary for the oppressed was shattered on that day and a
      new sad reality was erected in it¹s place.² P.36

      Last year, in France, two novels from a Jewish writer who was killed
      in Auschwitz were posthumously published to wide acclaim. Talking
      about the second book, one reviewer says: ³The second, Dolce, is a
      more studied and literary portrait of a small village, Bussy, at the
      very beginning of the occupation, and of the first tentative
      complicities of collaboration.² The words, ³first tentative
      complicities of collaboration² have stayed powerfully with me since I
      read them. Unfortunately over the last year, I have seen these
      complicities all around me.

      We express concern about journalists being embedded in war zones like
      Iraq, but we should be every bit as concerned about journalists being
      embedded in local Federal Buildings. My experience of the newspaper
      articles was that the prosecutors could not have written the articles
      better themselves. The media has also been unwilling to address any of
      the burning questions raised by the government¹s duplicitous approach
      to this case. I now believe I know exactly how the Holocaust likely
      happened in Germany. A complicit media and a willfully ignorant public
      are all that is needed and we have both.

      If you care about freedom of speech and civil liberties and would like
      to find out more about this case, please visit: www.dhafirtrial.net


      1. See Jennifer Van Bergen¹s two-part article, New American Law: The
      Case of Dr. Rafil Dhafir. 10/07/05:
      New American Law: Legal Strategies and Precedents in the Dhafir Case.
      10/08/05: http://www.counterpunch.org/vanbergen10072005.html (And on
      this site below.)

      2. I hope to make this video available to the public soon, look out on
      my website for information: www.dhafirtrial.net

      3. ACLU-CNY Statement on the Dhafir Case, 10/28/05. Full statement:

      4. Coming soon to my website: www.dhafirtrial.net

      6. Guardian Newspapers :

      Katherine Hughes is a concerned citizen, a potter and a voracious
      reader of history and current events.



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