[Sent to the Post Standard on 4/20/07 in response to “A talk with U.S. Attorney Glen Suddaby.”]

The Dr. Dhafir Support Committee would like to draw your attention to the continuing disconnectedness in your coverage of the Dr. Rafil Dhafir and Help the Needy (HTN) case. Although a few of your editorials have challenged the government subterfuge in this case, your paper has never used this editorial insight as an impetus to examine the many conflicting facts the government has presented to the media. Four years after Dhafir’s arrest, another opportunity for this was missed in last Sunday’s inane interview of U.S. Attorney Glen Suddaby.

Below are a few suggestions of questions the Dr. Dhafir Support Committee would have appreciated an answer to from U.S. Attorney Glen Suddaby, as well as some questions for the Post Standard:

For Glenn Suddaby: How is it that the government could write a “Terrorist Financing” paper in 2003, published just after Dhafir’s arrest before he had been anywhere near a court of law that lists Dhafir and other HTN defendants under “clean money” cases (p.20), while you continued to assure us that Dhafir was nothing more than a common criminal?

The government touts Dhafir and the HTN case as a big win in the “war on terror” and yet you and the three Dhafir prosecutors are mute on this subject. If this is true why wasn’t Dr. Dhafir allowed to face government charges of terrorism in a court of law like other defendants? For example, two defendants from other “terrorism” cases were listed with Dhafir and HTN defendants under the heading “clean money” cases in a government “Terrorist Financing” paper. Both were allowed to face terrorism charges in court and both were acquitted. Sami Al-Hussayen after being held without bail in solitary under 23-hour lockdown for 16 months was acquitted at trial and deported. Sami Al-Arian, arrested the week before Dhafir, was held without bail in solitary under 23-hour lockdown, subject to a six-month trial, acquitted in December 2005, and yet the government continues to hold him.

Can you explain how these two cases and those of the HTN defendants meet the standard of “innocent until proven guilty”?

For the Post Standard: During the HTN trial in February 2005, your reporter. John O’Brien, challenged Katherine Hughes to write a correction to her first article because she said the case started as a terrorism investigation. (See her exchange with John O’Brien about this “correction. While covering the seventeen-week trial John O’Brien was unconscious of the government strategy and therefore it is understandable that he did not address the strategy in his daily articles. However, it’s now two years after the strategy was brought to your attention, yet your paper has still failed to confront the government subterfuge in any way other than “opinion” editorials. Why is that?

In the summer of 2005 after HTN defendant Osameh Al-Wahaidy was sentenced, John O’Brien asked Al-Wahaidy about links to terrorism, something he knows nothing about. Yet he did not, on that day or since, ask the government to substantiate these “charges.” On that same day Katherine Hughes asked representatives of the media who were present, “Why aren’t you asking the government these questions about terrorism?” The Channel 10 reporter turned his back on her saying, “I’m not listening, I’m not listening, I’m not listening…” And the Channel 5 cameraman nearly poked her eye out telling her not to tell him how to do his job.

Not only is the media not listening, it’s not asking any of the pertinent questions that desperately need to be asked.

For Glenn Suddaby: Dhafir and HTN were investigated for five years by seven government agencies, they bugged his house, his office, hotel rooms, intercepted mail, email and faxes, listened to his phone calls and went through his trash, how can you say his Fourth Amendment rights were respected?

The Fourth Amendment:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

For the Post-Standard: Why is it that your newspaper has still not asked the government about its disregard not only for Dhafir’s Fourth Amendment rights, but for his Sixth Amendment rights?,

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”

And Eighth Amendment rights?,

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

For Glenn Suddaby: If the government has nothing to hide, why has Dhafir been continually denied access to his own records that were taken from his house on the day of the arrest? And why were other impediments to his defense put in place including, denial of bail, seizure of assets, denial of access to counsel, while the government presented “evidence” that Dhafir had no way to challenge?

As an example of the standard of evidence provided by the government against Dhafir, I call your attention to a bar chart that compared Dhafir’s billing practices with other doctor’s billing practices. Dhafir’s bar was very tall and the other doctor’s bars were small. When the witness, from the Medicare Investigator Unit, was asked what kind of doctors the other doctors were (oncologists using expensive chemotherapy medication?) and what their geographical location was (Dhafir was the sole oncologist in Rome, New York, an underserved area), she could not say. Thus the bar chart was completely useless as a tool to extract the information it purported to show.

On the day of Mrs. Dhafir’s sentencing the head prosecutor was asked how much of the $62,000 she was to pay back to Medicare was actually spent on medicine and he could not say. Dhafir was asked the same question and said that 90% of the $62,000 had been spent on medicine and that in 2002 Medicare had reimbursed him for less than he had spent on medicine alone. A look at the records would confirm or refute this, but Dhafir has been denied access to his own records.

The only defense witness, head physician for Medicare billing, confirmed the defense’s reading of the “incident to” rule that applied to all 25 Medicare counts, this meant Dhafir was not guilty any of these counts. See Katherine Hughes’ summary of the last day of the trial, it addresses the 25 counts of Medicare fraud:

For the Post-Standard: Why did your newspaper run a front-page correction of the only defense witness, with a photograph, contradicting his own testimony of the previous day? (This was in direct contrast to an earlier correction, in the first week of the trial your paper had a big erroneous headline that was very damning to Dhafir, it was corrected a couple of days later on the inside of the paper.) Yet you still have not asked any government witnesses from the Medicare part of the case to explain the meaning of the bar chart or any of the other “evidence” in which the numbers did not add up.

We could go on but instead refer you to this article, “Criminalizing Compassion in the War on Terror: Muslim Charities and the Case of Dr. Rafil A. Dhafir,” which documents the government strategy and provides footnotes for verification.

The defense presented a valid defense on each of the 60 counts and at the very least suggested cause “for reasonable doubt.” That the only “not guilty” verdict in Dhafir’s case was a single count in which the government had made a mistake in the indictment is astonishing. This and the fact that two women jurors mouthed “I’m sorry” to Dr. Dhafir after the verdict was handed down is cause for grave concern about the justice of our legal system.

Other Muslim charities across the country are being targeted by the government in the post 9/11 period. Since December 2001, six major Muslim charities and many smaller charities like HTN have been shut down. This governemnt assault has put many of the most esteemed members of Muslim communities behind bars and burdened these communities with astronomical legal bills. The government justifies this attack by saying it is going after the money that finances terror, yet it has provided no evidence of terrorist financing in any of these cases. (See OMB Watch report.)

Talking about the case of Sami Al-Hussayen (mentioned above) who was acquitted and deported, Thomas Naylor, McGill University Professor, renowned money-laundering expert and author of “Satanic Purses: Money, Myth and Misinformation in the War on Terror” says,

“On the surface that might seem another embarrassing failure [for the government]. But it succeeded in demonstrating to Muslim males that the Justice Department had the power to destroy lives. Prior to his legal vindication, Al-Hussayen’s wife and children were deported; his friends were scared off; his reputation was ruined; and of course, he had spent eighteen months under lock and key. Ultimately the government agreed to drop the immigration charge, too, if he in turn agreed not to appeal his deportation order.”

What Naylor describes is not happening “out there,” it is happening right here in Syracuse. We can avert our eyes as Muslims and Arabs are subjected to an ad hoc redefinition and contraction of their basic freedoms, or we can stand up and say, “this is not right.” In order to do this it would be helpful to have a newspaper that is willing to inform us about what is really going on.

Yours Sincerely,
Katherine Hughes
William Coop
Ed Kinane
For the Dr. Dhafir Support Committee