[As an aid to understanding the trial proceedings and this post, see my summary of the opening remarks of the judge, the prosecution and the defense. This provides an overview of the case.]

I have had requests from people who have looked at this website to provide the specifics of why I believe the government’s case against Dr. Dhafir was not proven . And because of these requests, I have decided to attempt to share my experience of the proceedings. I attended almost all of the proceedings and wrote for around 5 hours of each day. The volume of information was enormous and I filled 8 notebooks.

I had hesitated to address this subject because it felt too vast, and I did not have a framework to help me address the 14 weeks of testimony. This has changed since I read Bill Quigley’s closing remarks to the jury in the St. Patrick’s Four trial; I believe I now have a framework to support this endeavor.

In his closing remarks, Bill Quigley gave the jury in the St. Patrick’s Four trial “10 KEYS to FREEDOM”. He said: “These are 10 keys why you should find these folks innocent — any one will work as a key for their freedom but I am giving you 10 so that you can take your pick”. I have chosen 3 of Bill Quigley’s keys to help me address the charges of the indictment of Dr. Dhafir. I will use these keys to focus my thinking and to help me illustrate my thinking with concrete examples from my witness of the proceedings. The keys that I have chosen are:


TWO: THERE WAS NO CRIMINAL INTENT — The burden of establishing a lack of good faith and criminal intent rests on the prosecution… WHICH MUST PROVE IT BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT.


I will address the indictment using Mr. Green’s (one of the prosecutors) 10 groups from his opening summary of the charges for the prosecution. My presentation will not be in quotation marks because I was not always able to keep up with the pace of the proceedings. It’s possible that some things will be word for word, and others an approximation, I encourage people to seek out the court records for the actual remarks. This is my individual experience of this trial and I share it as an attempt to help people understand why I don’t think the government proved their case against Dr. Dhafir.

I believe the power of visual communication is enormous, and I believe it was a powerful contribution to the government’s presentation of this case. I will therefore set the scene of the court:

The judge was on his bench with the witness stand to his right and his law clerk to his left. Below the judge were the two court recorders.

The jury was on the left side of the court (the Judge’s right) looking across the court to windows on the other side. There were 16 members of the Jury, 12 plus 4 alternates. One member of the Jury dropped out early in the proceedings.

Next to the Jury were two sets of tables one behind another. The three prosecutors sat at the front table. And behind them sat 3 agents from, the FBI, Social Security and the Defense Department. The FBI agent and the Social Security agent testified. The prosecution team was, Michael Olmstead, Steve Green and Greg West.

The defense team sat adjacent to the prosecution team at another 2 tables, also one behind the other. Two of the defense lawyers sat at the front table. Dr. Dhafir and the other defense lawyer sat behind. After a few days of proceedings Dr. Dhafir sat at the front table with whichever lawyer was active in cross-examination of witnesses. The defense team was, Deveraux Cannick, Joel Cohen and Philip Gaynor.

There were two court guards always present, one at each exit. Two federal marshals were also always present in the courtroom. Their escort was necessary because, due to religious belief, Dr. Dhafir would not submit to a strip search. One marshal sat directly behind Dr. Dhafir and the other one sat at the door of the opposite end of the room between the jury and the witness stand. There were five of these federal marshals and they relieved each other every hour throughout the trial.

CASE NOT PROVEN — Keys I will use to examine the 60 count indictment (this Grand Jury Indictment is available on this site under “other links”):

KEY 1. “Presumption of Innocence” and “Beyond A Reasonable Doubt”.

KEY 2. There was no criminal intent.

KEY 3. Common sense and unanswered questions.





Before attending the trial I knew that, according to UN statistics, half a million children under the age of 5 died as a direct result of the embargo, and another million adults and children over the age of 5, also died. I knew that Madeleine Albright, when asked about the deaths of these half a million children, had said she thought it was a “price worth paying”. I was also aware that Denis Halliday, the former Assistant General of the UN had resigned because he considered the sanctions on Iraq a “genocidal policy.”

From the proceedings it’s clear that Dr. Dhafir did send money, food and medicines to to Jordan where all the rules of that country were complied with before aid was sent into Iraq.

KEY 1. I think Dr. Dhafir knew about the sanctions because I myself was aware of them, and a fundraising video that was shown made clear that he was aware of the sanctions and their effects on the Iraqi people. But, from what I saw in the proceedings, I don’t believe that Dr. Dhafir acted with criminal intent, or intent to endanger National Security. During the course of the proceedings the government provided me with no information to support this view.

My doubt about criminal intent and willful endangering of National Security comes from the testimony of Susan Hutner. Ms. Hutner works for the Department of the Treasury in the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC). She was involved in the drafting and implementation of the sanctions. Her job was to implement the executive order and explain to the public what is and is not prohibited. She worked on the sanctions of Iraq for 12 years, but testified that she had no knowledge in her professional or private life about their effects. She stated that it was not OFAC’s job to monitor the effects.

The regulations were drafted by attorneys and used complex legal language. Regulations were published in the Federal Register that is published daily and is at least as thick as a phone book. Cohen asked Ms. Hutner to say whether she saw the register every day, and she said she rarely saw it and could not remember the last time she saw it.

Mr. Cohen, in cross-examination for the defense, made reference to a New York Times article of August 6th, 1990 in which the complexity of the sanctions were discussed, including the suggestion that there may have been some humanitarian exemptions. Mr. Cohen asked if Ms. Hutner had received any phone calls from Mosques or Muslim charities. Ms. Hutner could not remember.

OFAC did seek to notify targeted populations, but this did not include Iraqis living in this country, or mosques, or Muslim charities. The target populations were mainly, banks, oil companies and other big businesses. Ms. Hutner gave presentations to some of these groups.

Ms. Hutner came across as hard and obstructive. She was particularly contrary with her responses to the defense questioning about the Oil For Food program. Mr. Cohen was having great difficulty addressing his question in a way that would elicit an answer from Ms. Hutner. The prosecution objected to his attempts and, at that point, Mr. Cohen asked that the witness be taken out of the courtroom while the Oil For Food program was discussed.

With the witness out of the courtroom, the prosecution wanted to know the relevance of the Oil For Food program. The judge also did not see where the Oil For Food program fitted in and wanted to move the case along. Mr. Cohen explained that he was addressing the Oil For Food program because this program put the aid directly into the hands of the Iraqi government.

The prosecution continued to argue that the Oil for Food program wasn’t relevant. And the judge told Mr. Cohen that he did not see how this could be relevant to this witness and that he could get another witness if he wanted to.

KEY 2. Although it was clear that Dr. Dhafir and Help the Needy did send aid to Jordan which then was sent on to Iraq, the government did not prove wilfull criminal intent.

KEY 3. It made complete sense to me that the consequences of working through the Oil For Food program were relevant to the case before the court. After the Oil for Food program was implemented, the food intake of already starving infants aged less than 18 months dropped a further 23%.

Why did Ms. Hutner, as the person responsible for implementation, have no knowledge of the devastating effects of the sanctions or the Oil For Food program on the Iraqi people? The fact that Hutner had no knowledge of the effects of the sanctions, made me think that it was also possible that Dr. Dhafir did indeed believe that humanitarian aid was exempt from the sanctions. As one of the most likely population to be sending things to Iraq, why didn’t OFAC target Iraqi citizens in this country, mosques and Muslim charities with their information about the sanctions?



The prosecution spent days following check after check from the Oneida Savings Bank in Oneida, to the Key Bank in Syracuse, and then by cashier’s check to a bank in Jordan (or some variation on this). There were also checks from a Fleet Bank account. The government was able to do all this because although Dr. Dhafir was not an accountant he did keep track of all the money including using an internal accounting list that the government called “the ledger”. This ledger was one of the government’s key pieces of evidence as the base from which they followed the money flow. The government used this ledger to track all the flow of money and made big graphic charts with arrows going to different countries to show the flow.

KEY 1. Mr. Cannick pointed out in his opening remarks that the law about money laundering refers to cash not checks.

The transactions between the banks in the US were made by check and this made them all easily traceable. The same is true of the cashier’s checks that were sent to Jordan. There was nothing in this show of the money flow by the government that provided me with evidence that Dr. Dhafir was using the money for anything other than aiding starving Iraqis. Dr. Dhafir did have his own accounts in Jordan and there were some examples of strongly worded emails from him to the person in Jordan, Maher Zagha (an Onondaga Community College graduate), telling him that the money should not be mixed up between the “private” account and the “relief “account. There was similar correspondence between Walid Smare (a Help the Needy defendant who was given immunity for testifying) and Zagha, with Smare also telling Zagha not to get his money mixed up with the relief money. Maher Zagha in Jordan was sending aid from individuals, like Walid Smare, to families in Iraq. This was the only way that a family could survive in the extreme conditions.

One of the charts the government used had a big arrow going into Canada. On cross-examination, Mark Sweeney, an IRS agent, now retired, admitted that the money did not go to Canada; it went to a Canadian citizen.

There were also emails over a period of time where Dr. Dhafir was writing and asking very strongly if he could have receipts for the food that was bought. Dr. Dhafir apologized to the recipient for the need to request receipts, but explained that it was required for US tax purposes.

The cultural differences (that a person’s word is all that is needed), compounded by the extreme situation in Iraq, meant people didn’t want to be able to be traced by Saddam Hussein’s government via the receipts — and so the receipts were not always forthcoming. There were receipts from Jordan, where people did not have to worry about retribution for their actions, which showed purchases in tonnes of: rice, flour, sugar, tea, tomato paste, chick peas, Iraqi lentils, margarine and containers of oil. Every piece of evidence the defense had came directly from the government; even so, the prosecution inspected these receipts and said that they would reserve any question about their authenticity. I don’t remember this being addressed further and I assume that these receipts were indeed authentic.

Mr. Smare also explained the 8 categories of Zakat and stated that most of the money raised in the West, unless specified for a particular purpose, was spent on food, medicine and clothing. Money was raised in the Gulf region for specific things like building a mosque, or buying Korans. Mohamed Warrari, an SU graduate raised funds in the United Arab Emirates. And Ahmed Mushara raised money in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

KEY 2. No criminal intent was apparent from following the money flow. And no other evidence that the government provided suggested criminal intent to me. There was a lot of arguing about the specific meaning of words, for example a word that the government translated as “preacher.” The government’s contention was that some of the people distributing the aid were preachers. Mr. Smare explained that the word the government was translating as “preacher” was a flexible term and did not just mean preacher, it was used to refer to anyone who behaves in a good way and is involved in the community. He gave another Arabic word that was less ambiguous and a more apt translation of the word “preacher.” Mr. Smare said that the Baath Party was very suspicious of charity and humanitarian work and that the work of getting aid to people was fraught with danger. One of the people working to distribute aid for Help the Needy was killed by the Iraqi government. Help the Needy was well known in Iraq and Dr. Dhafir was a target of Saddam Hussein’s government. None of the people who did charity work for Help the Needy was able to return to Iraq, they would have been imprisoned, tortured and perhaps killed. Their families were also in danger of retribution from the Iraq government.

KEY 3. In the context of the Iraqi sanctions, and the extreme conditions that they had produced, Dr. Dhafir’s actions seemed perfectly reasonable to me and the government did not provide me with any evidence to counter this impression. Dr. Dhafir did not try to hide what he was doing from the government or anyone else. On the contrary (as I witnessed in the fund raising video) he was extremely vocal about what he was doing and his condemnation of the government’s policy. The government had an undercover FBI agent posing as a janitor at this fundraiser even though the event was publicized and open to the public. Also, why would Dr. Dhafir keep such detailed records if his goal were to hide things from the government?

Relief money was sent to Dr. Dhafir’s brother, Najim, also a physician, living in Baghdad. Najim coordinated with Walid Smare’s brother to buy the animals for sacrifice and feeding of the needy. There were also projects in Iraq like dairy farming which produced work, food and money. Some of the money was for special projects like the building of a house or a mosque, or buying Korans. The prosecution contended that this money was taken from the money raised in the US for food and clothes. But the defense showed, mainly through emails, that money for special projects had been raised specifically for those purposes. Much of the money was raised in the Gulf States. The prosecution did not provide me with any information to doubt that this was true.

Dr. Dhafir was also exploring ways to set up something that would be self-sustaining rather than having to fund raise all the time. One idea was to have a clothing factory and the profits from that factory could be used to send aid to the Iraqi people. There were emails showing that Dr. Dhafir had asked for a feasibility study to be done. Dr. Dhafir with the aid of Walid Smare solicited input from many religious men as to whether this was possible within the strictures of Islam. The government saw this as Dr. Dhafir fishing for the answer that he wanted, I saw this as a sensible way to gather information before making a decision on the subject. It also made sense to me that Dr. Dhafir wanted Help the Needy to be more secure financially by generating its own financial aid and providing paying jobs for the needy rather than having to rely on donations.

Dr. Dhafir and Help the Needy also had domestic projects here in the U.S. that they were beginning to work on. Mr. Kolbe of the FBI confirmed that he had seen documents referring to distribution of food by Help the Needy in, Syracuse, Queens, New York and New Jersey. He could not recall Binghamton. There were email exchanges between Dr. Dhafir and Five Kiwis, a woman located in Binghamton, in which he asked her to conduct a poverty study of the United States. There were other emails that showed that Help the Needy was getting ready to help the internal (U.S.) needy.

The government did everything it could to stop the condition of Iraq during the sanctions from being part of the proceedings and they were cruel in their efforts to enforce this. When Walid Smare broke down on the stand while talking about the state of Iraq, Mr. West for the prosecution immediately and unceremoniously interrupted and said that it didn’t matter how noble a person’s motivation was if he had broken the law. Mr. Smare was the prosecution’s witness and it was the prosecution who had opened this line of questioning about the border of Jordan and Iraq.

Mr. Cannick, for the defense, was extremely upset about the interruption and told the judge that it was totally inappropriate. The judge told Mr. Cannick to calm down and then addressed the jury directly. He stated that we were not there to judge whether actions were noble or not. It didn’t matter how noble the actions were if the law had been broken. Mr. Cannick immediately requested a side bar, and the jury was excused.

After what had just taken place with Mr. West’s interruption and the judge’s address to the jury, Mr. Cannick continued to be extremely upset. He requested that the judge address further what he had said about nobility and the law. The judge told Mr. Cannick he had given a primary instruction to the jury and he would instruct them at the end of the trial. (The date was November 3rd, 2004 and the trial finished on February 10th, 2005.) Cross-examination of this witness continued with discussion about the effects of depleted uranium and photographs of children with birth defects were shown. Several other witnesses broke down on the stand as they talked about the effects of the sanctions on the people of Iraq and on their own family. One man’s mother had died because she couldn’t get the pills that she needed for her heart.

Walid Smare talked of Dr. Dhafir with the utmost respect. He said he had come to the United States knowing no one, and Dr. Dhafir had treated him like family. He described Dr. Dhafir as one of his closest friends who was like an older brother to him. He stated that he completely trusted Dr. Dhafir then and now. Each of the witnesses who testified for the government under a plea-bargain agreement or immunity, spoke of Dr. Dhafir with the highest regard. Every witness who knew Dr. Dhafir talked of his kindness, and generosity and they each said that they trusted him before and they still trusted him now. I thought this was a remarkable testimony to Dr. Dhafir’s character given the situation that they were now all in.


On Wednesday, November 3rd, in FBI agent Jim Kolbe’s testimony, he referred to some magazines that had been found in a dumpster. He stated that the magazines showed military operations and there was a gun cleaning kit also in the dumpster (this was later shown to be from a Thanksgiving hunting trip). When Mr. Cannick tried to explore this line of questioning, the prosecution objected because Cannick was going down a road that the Judge had ruled inadmissible.

The prosecution also referred to the small religious group of Islam that Osama Bin Laden is a member of, and made the court aware that Dr. Dhafir is also a member of this particular denomination of the Islamic religious tradition.

The defense asked that the jury (and later Mr. Kolbe) leave the courtroom. Mr. Gaynor argued that the defense should be allowed to follow up the line of questioning because it was the government who had introduced it. The defense aired other concerns about what they believed to be insinuation without proof by the government. Mr. Cannick then applied for a mistrial because he believed that Mr. Kolbe’s testimony strongly suggested to the jury that Dr. Dhafir was still under investigation for more serious charges that were still pending. His concern was that it “left a ringing bell in the ears of jurors.”

The Prosecution opposed the motion for a mistrial saying there was no merit to the request. The judge said he would rule on the request after he had made a review of the testimony.

On Monday, November 8th, after a review of the transcripts, the judge ruled that he did not believe the government had given the impression of links to terrorism by insinuation. And he gave examples of testimony that he believed supported his decision. He therefore felt that the request for a mistrial had no merit.


I noticed that the demeanor of some of the witnesses who worked for the government was different when they were talking to the defense. The most striking example of this was Susan Hutner. This was in marked contrast to the witnesses that testified under plea-agreement or immunity, their demeanor was the same regardless of who was asking the questions.

Dr. Dhafir gave half his income to charity each year. Here in the USA he helped set several people who were immigrants or refugees up in business so that they would then be able to become productive citizens and not be dependent on hand-outs. One of the people who testified was an Iraqi man that Dr. Dhafir had helped establish a car mechanic shop. The man paid Dr. Dhafir off by fixing his car over the years and could not remember if he had completely cleared his debt with Dr. Dhafir.

The fact that the Laundromat Dr. Dhafir owned on Salina Street did not make any money does not make any sense in the context of “good business.” But if we place it in the context of public service to a population in need of a Laundromat, and providing work and income for people who otherwise would not have any, then it makes perfect sense.

The government had found a lot of cash in a safety deposit box belonging to Mrs. Dhafir, in the region of $100,000.00, and a large amount of cash was also found at the house of Dr. and Mrs. Dhafir. The culture of the Middle East is as a cash society and this is not something that would be viewed with suspicion. Many Arabs living in this country still transact a substantial amount of their business in cash. (See post below in civil liberties folder, 1/30/05, a report on how Arab Americans were being discriminated against by banks because they work in so much cash.) Also, this cash was listed with Dr. Dhafir’s other assets in official documents itemizing his total worth, this was not something he was trying to hide.
The federal marshals who were guarding Dr. Dhafir traded off every hour. The fact that they were doing so was very evident. I believe that this could have been done equally well, providing the required security, in a much more unobtrusive manner. I calculated that if the trial were 60 days long (it may have been a bit more), then these federal marshals replaced each other 240 times during the course of the trial. This was a very powerful non-verbal message to the jury. I thought about the power of this communication when I remembered 5 hours that I had spent at JFK airport just before the start of the Iraq war. CNN was on the TV monitor and for 5 hours Osama Bin Laden walked across the screen and below in words there was information about the charges against Saddam Hussein and Iraq. If I had not seen this I would not have been able to understand why a large majority of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was behind the attack of 9/11.

The jury knew that Dr. Dhafir had been denied bail and had been held in custody for two years, and that he was still in custody. They were aware that it was Judge Mordue, who talked football and joked with them, who had denied Dr. Dhafir bail on four occasions.



Dr. Dhafir was an extremely wealthy man. He and his wife owned a fair sized apartment complex that had been sold for a substantial amount of money. They owned other property and had other substantial assets. They had a very large income and very little outgoing, so their assets increased each year. They lived in the same house for 17 years and had no mortgage on the house, and Dr. Dhafir drove a 1992 Nissan until 2002 when he purchased 2 lowest end 2001 Lexus for him and his wife.

The proceedings showed that he had a very modest lifestyle that must have needed only a fraction of his income to support. There must have been plenty of excess. Jim Kolbe, the FBI agent, testified that Dr. Dhafir was one of the biggest donors to Help the Needy, donating $1.25 million over the years. Dhafir was also very generous to the needy in this country, including providing treatment (and paying for the expensive chemotherapy medicines himself) for people who had cancer but did not have medical coverage or the ability to pay. Why then would he go through this elaborate and dangerous charade to steal an insignificant (relatively speaking) amount of money?

Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, in his article “The Corpse of Habeas Corpus” states:

“The prohibition against torture has been breeched by the practice of plea bargaining, which replaces jury trials with negotiated self-incrimination, and by sentencing guideline, which transfer sentencing discretion from judge to prosecutor. Plea bargaining is a form of psychological torture in which innocent and guilty alike give up their right to a jury trial in order to reduce the number and severity of the charges that the prosecutor brings.” (This piece is available below on this website.)

And John Pilger in his book, “The New Rulers of the World”, Verso Press 2002, states that:

“Omission is the most virulent form of censorship.” P.148

Mr. Cannick for the defense questioned Mr. Kolbe of the FBI early in the proceedings about omission as a type of lying. In his opening remarks Cannick told the jury that the government would actively attempt to exclude some evidence.

The media has been guilty of omission by not covering much of the testimony that countered government allegations. It has also been impossible to get them to cover court watchers’ views of the trial. Many of these court watchers were present for significantly more of the trial proceedings than John O’Brien, the reporter for Syracuse Post-Standard newspaper. Yet his version of events is the one that is widely known to the public and considered as “truth,” often without any thought for what might have been left out.

As recently as yesterday, at the sentencing of the Help the Needy defendant Ayman Jarwan, I provided all the media who were present with a post card of my sculpture “Justice” and a “Never Give In” bumper sticker (both of which have my website number). I asked that they inform the public that another view of the court proceedings was available. There was no mention of this in any of the media coverage and so yet again the public was denied the opportunity of knowing that another view of the proceedings is available. I believe this is grave disservice to the public.

None of the media reports from yesterday covered the fact that Ayman Jarwan’s lawyer, Mr. McGraw, told the judge, “In all my 30 years, I’ve never represented a more honorable or honest man.” Dr. Dhafir’s lawyers in their closing arguments, told the jury a similar thing about their client. This honor and honesty that Mr. McGraw talked about to the judge was evident in the testimony of the people involved with the charity Help the Needy as they testified from the stand. What can these experienced lawyers be thinking when, using everything they know, they are unable prevent men who they consider as extremely honorable and honest and innocent of the charges from long prison terms?

I will continue my examination of the indictment with counts 24-50, the Medicare Fraud charges, and post them to my website as soon as it is complete. I will work my way through the complete indictment. If people have specific questions that they want me to address, they can leave them in the comment space below on my website. My priority at the moment is to finish my review of the indictment, but I will get to any questions as soon as I possibly can.

Katherine: It is now August 19, 2008, and we are approaching Dr. Dhafir’s oral arguments for appeal to be heard in New York City on August 28th. I was never able to get back to the indictment, there were always many other things to be done. People interested in the Medicare part of the case can read my summary of the last day of the trial here.

And this is an excerpt from an article I wrote that highlights some of the weakness I found in the evidence of Medicare fraud:

“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 on film. 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. Dhafir’s billing practices to Medicare, as compared to some other physicians. The bar graph showed Dr. Dhafir’s 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, it’s unlikely that many, if any, of these other physicians were Oncologists using expensive chemotherapy drugs.”

See the full article here.

See a letter from Dr. Dhafir to Medicare here. After this letter, Dr. Dhafir’s office was put on a “pre-payment flag.” This meant that his office did not receive payment until someone at Medicare had checked his office’s billing. At trial, the defence was unable to find out when, if ever, Dr. Dhafir’s office was taken off this flag.

At trial, the government did not contest that Dr. Dhafir’s patients received medical care and expensive chemotherapy medicine at his office. It argued that, because Dr. Dhafir’s office had filled out the Medicare forms incorrectly, he was entitled to no reimbursement from Medicare. Thus, everything Medicare had reimbursed had to be paid back. Medicare fraud usually involved fictitious patients and made up illnesses, Dr. Dhafir’s case had none of this. The government does not dispute that all his patients were real people who were provided with medical care and expensive chemotherapy medicine.