From three concerned citizens:

In the interest of promoting free speech, please consider covering this case that has been ongoing in Syracuse, NY for the past two and a half years. It concerns an oncologist, Dr. Rafil Dhafir, an American citizen of Iraqi descent and Muslim faith. He has been incarcerated without bail since Feb. 2003. He will be sentenced on October 18th.

Because of the sanctions put in place by the US government in the 1990s against Saddam Hussein, the suffering of the Iraqi people was extreme. Dr. Dhafir founded an organization called “Help the Needy” to send humanitarian aid to families in Iraq. It was one of the few organizations that actually got aid through to the Iraqi people.

According to UNICEF 6,000 children under the age of five were dying every month because of lack of access to sufficient food and health care. By the end of the sanctions the number of dead Iraqi children under the age of five totaled half a million. The government prosecutors have spared no expense in going after this man. Dr. Dhafir is the only individual to be prosecuted for breaking these sanctions and many people view this as a selective prosecution. Also, 150 families, mainly of Muslim faith, were interviewed by the FBI on the day of the arrest. And this has had a very chilling effect on the local Muslim community.

Throughout this time of Dr Dhafir’s detention without bail, state and federal government continually insinuated a link terrorism through the media. But, at the request of the prosecutors, Dr. Dhafir was denied the right to defend himself against this charge at the trial. However, local prosecutors now wish to bring this charge to the sentencing. We three attended the 17 week trial and saw how Dr. Dhafir’s detention without bail and not being allowed to address the terrorism charge at trial, severely hampered the defense team in their task of defending Dr. Dhafir. This is not equal justice.

We did not know Dr. Dhafir or each other before we attended the 17 week trial. We attended the trial at the invitation of the ACLU, but all thoughts in this letter are our own with no affiliation to that organization. Below are three unpublished letters that reflect our experience of the trial proceedings. We believe this view should be made available to the public. For a democracy to survive, it is vital that more than one voice is heard. Please help Dr. Dhafir get a fair hearing in the media by covering this story as soon as possible.

Dr. Dhafir’s lawyer and we who attended the 17 week trial would be willing to appear on your show.

Gay Montague
Katherine Hughes
Linda Bergh
Syracuse, New York

The three Post-Standard letters from 9/13 and 8/24 were attached. They can be viewed in the “Court Observers” folder. Similar letters were sent to other media outlets.