Submitted to the December issue of the organizational newsletter “Connections.”
By Linda Bergh, court-watcher at the trial of Dr. Dhafir

Quoted in the movie “Good Night & Good Luck”, about Edward R. Murrow and his confrontation of Sen. Joseph MCarthy in the 1950’s: from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, — “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves. . .” — Act I, sc. 2, l. 138


Remembering how Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus,
denying cooperation with the “whites only” segregation rule in
Birmingham, Alabama in the 1950’s, our pastor asked us during
worship, “And what will you do if someone gets ‘picked on’ while you’re riding the bus?”

Dr. Rafil Dhafir, a 57-year-old Iraqi-born U.S. citizen and Rome, NY
oncologist, who founded a Muslim charity called “Help the Needy” to send food, clothing, and medical aid to adults and children in Iraq during the crushing U.S./UN-sponsored sanctions — this man, highly esteemed by friends and colleagues –this man has been “picked on”.

Dr. Dhafir was “picked on” by the government’s “selective prosecution” in his case. This began with the high-handed manner in which he was arrested, (80 plus agents during that day and 150 Muslim families interrogated), and the repeated denial of bail for a white-collar crime during his 19 months of imprisonment before trial. (This allowed only abbreviated access to his lawyers and defense documents.)

During the trial, the government’s case that charity funds didn’t go where promised was met with receipts for food and clothing presented by the defense. That some money went for the building of mosques and self-help projects was shown to be specially funded.

Charges with regard to Medicare were shown to be caused by confusion in billing practices, were exaggerated by the government as to the amount, and could have been resolved by the request of a refund.

If the charity had not fulfilled all the legal procedures required, it would have been possible for NY State to shut it down until it had completed all the necessary forms and information. Testimony was given of applications made and held up. This was not grounds for imprisonment.

Other sources of confusion regarding handling of funds were presented, without giving convincing reasons for the government’s implication of selfish or criminal intent. And, of course, the breaking of the sanctions on Iraq to get food and clothing to those in need was not unique to Dr. Dhafir. Others (i.e. Voices in the Wilderness) had done the same–and were simply fined! Could one deny trying to help in the face of such need? And some U.S.businesses were breaking the sanctions and being fined, as well.

Lastly, the element of “terrorism connections”, with which Dr. Dhafir was never charged in court, and which the government prosecutors did not allow to be mentioned, was allowed to figure in the sentencing. This lengthened his sentence by an additional 8 to 9 years. There was never an opportunity for the defense to deal with this in court, other than by comment at the time of sentencing.

The manner of arrest, imprisonment without bail, and harsh sentencing where others have had fines or less, leads to the conclusion that this was “selective prosecution” by the government–that this happened because Dr. Dhafir is a Muslim U.S. citizen of Iraqi birth. A sense of Christian justice would indicate that we should not allow our government to “bear false witness”, and we should not allow harsher treatment for an Iraqi-born, Muslim U.S. citizen than for other U.S. citizens or even non-citizens who happen to be non-Muslim, non-Arab, charged with the same wrongdoings.

Pray about this matter, about our government and a sense of justice, and write to your congressperson, senators, governor, and attorney-general. Let them know that Christians stand for justice. Write to Dr. Rafil Dhafir, Jamesville Correctional Facility, P.O. Box 143, Jamesville, NY 13078, and let him know that his concern for the poor is appreciated.

In Christian love & partnership,
Linda Bergh, court-watcher at the trial of Dr. Dhafir.