The Terrorism Case that Wasn’t
One Year On, ‘Help the Needy’ Case Still Shrouded in Mystery, Innuendo
by Madeleine Baran The New Standard 2/29/04

A Muslim American doctor held without bail for providing charity aid to Iraq against sanctions speaks out for the first time about his cause. Under insinuations of terror that won’t go away, the case may put US-Iraq policy on trial.

Syracuse, NY; Feb. 29, 2004 — A year ago, two federal investigators and a New York state trooper followed Dr. Rafil Dhafir, a prominent physician, as he pulled out of his driveway around seven in the morning and headed to work at his medical clinic outside Syracuse. A few blocks later, they ordered Dhafir to pull his tan 2001 Lexus over to the side of the road and arrested him on charges that he violated the sanctions against Iraq.

In nearby Fayetteville, Osameh Al-Wahaidy, a college math instructor and imam for a local prison, heard a knock at his door. When he opened it, he was face-to-face with federal investigators holding two warrants – one to search his home, the other to arrest him.

At the same time, Ayman Jarwan, executive director of the charity Help the Needy, opened the door of his Syracuse apartment and met the same fate.

Meanwhile, federal agents started knocking on the doors of Muslim families throughout the Syracuse area, asking them questions about their donations to Help the Needy, and about their religion. In four hours, authorities visited as many as 150 area families. Although the exact number is not known, it is believed to be one of the largest federal interrogations of Muslims in the United States.

Full article: here

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As ‘Help the Needy’ Charity Trial Nears, Case Further Politicizes
by Madeleine Baran The New Standard 8/18/04

While a motion to dismiss the case against Muslim charity worker Dr. Rafil Dhafir awaits decision, a fifth attempt at obtaining bail in a white collar case construed with innuendo of “terrorism” was rejected.

Aug. 18, 2004 — In the eighteen months since Central New York oncologist Rafil Dhafir was arrested and charged with violating the US embargo against Iraq, he has been sitting in a Syracuse jail, ignored by most of the national media, as prosecutors continue to add charges threatening him with a maximum sentence of almost 300 years in prison.

Having been denied bail for a fifth time on August 16, it appears Dhafir will remain behind bars until his September 27 trial date.

Now that a new motion for dismissal has attracted some attention, Dhafir’s supporters are hoping the case — which some say is the most complicated and questionable prosecution of a Muslim charity in the post-September 11 era — may be thrown out before it reaches trial.

Federal investigators arrested Dhafir, a 56 year-old US citizen born in Iraq, in February 2003, after what they boasted was a three-year investigation into his charity, Help the Needy. Dhafir, the organization’s founder and president, says Help the Needy sent humanitarian aid to Iraq, which was under severe sanctions supported by the US government at the time. The flow of food and medical supplies was severely restricted.

Prosecutors allege that Dhafir passed at least $160,000 of the money raised by his charity to friends and relatives in his home country, in violation of an act prohibiting Americans from sending money to Iraq. Humanitarian aid in other forms could be legally distributed with a license from the US government. Help the Needy, like many other Iraq charities, had no such license.

However, prosecutors have not claimed that any of the Help the Needy donations funded either the Iraqi government or terrorist groups. In fact, evidence uncovered in a government investigation appears to indicate that money went toward food and other supplies for needy families.

Full article: here.