This letter was sent to the Syracuse Post-Standard on Friday, May 11, 2007

Since the events of September 11, 2001, the government has raided and closed down six major Muslim charities and many smaller Muslim charities, accusing each of funding terrorism. In each case, alleged “guilt by association” meant that the charities’ assets were frozen and their principals arrested. Yet despite new investigative powers, government authorities have failed to produce evidence of terrorist financing by any of these Muslim charities. Dr. Rafil Dhafir, an Upstate New York oncologist, is the founder of one of these charities.

As a direct response to the humanitarian catastrophe created by the Gulf War and U.S. and U.K. sponsored UN sanctions on Iraq, Dhafir founded the charity Help The Needy (HTN). For 13 years he worked tirelessly to help publicize the plight of the Iraqi people and to raise funds to help them. According to the government, Dhafir donated $1.25 million of his own money over the years. As an oncologist, he was also concerned about the effects of depleted uranium on the Iraqi population which was experiencing skyrocketing cancer rates.

He was born in Iraq in 1948 and, after completing medical school, immigrated to the U.S. in 1972: he has been a U.S. citizen for 30 years. He was a founding member of the Islamic Society of Central New York (ISCNY) and for about seven years, when there was no regular imam, he served as the ISCNY spiritual leader. He was the sole oncologist in Rome, NY, an underserved area and, until his arrest, he and his wife, Priscilla, were very active in Syracuse civic affairs. He often spoke at events and on local TV and radio about health and cancer care.

From the outset of this case the government was duplicitous. Using unfair tactics and innuendo, with the aid of a complicit media, the government transformed Dhafir from a compassionate humanitarian into a crook and supporter of terrorists.

Dhafir and other HTN associates were arrested in the early morning of February 26, 2003, just weeks before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and Dhafir has been incarcerated ever since. Simultaneous to the arrests, between the hours of 6 and 10 a.m., law enforcement agents interrogated 150 Muslim families because they had donated to HTN. On that day then-Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that “funders of terrorism” had been arrested.

Just before Dhafir’s trial began in October 2004, then-New York Governor Pataki described the case as a “money laundering case to help terrorist organizations … conduct horrible acts,” an announcement perfectly timed to reach potential jurors. Yet prosecutors successfully petitioned the presiding judge, who denied Dhafir bail on four occasions, to prevent the charge of terrorism from being part of the proceedings. This ruling meant that throughout the trial the prosecution hinted at more serious charges, but the defense was prohibited from addressing these inflammatory innuendos.

Muslims and Arabs in the U.S. are currently being subjected to an ad hoc redefinition and contraction of their basic freedoms; the consequences for Muslim charity and Muslims are enormous and unjust. Despite being convicted of only International Economic Emergency Powers Act (IEEPA) violation and white-collar crime, Dhafir is now serving 22 years in prison for a crime he was never charged with in a court of law–money laundering to help terrorist organizations.

Please help us achieve justice by sending a non-tax-deductible contribution in any amount to: Dr. Dhafir Appeal Fund, c/o Peter Goldberger, Esq., Attorney at Law, 50 Rittenhouse Place, Ardmore. PA 19003. Checks should be made payable to “Dr. Dhafir Appeal Fund.” For more information visit:

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