10th Anniversary of his arrest, Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Contact: Katherine Hughes

Tel: 315 479 6897

Email: katherinehugh [at]

Two Events:

What: An interfaith vigil to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Dr. Dhafir’s arrest and incarceration and the interrogation of 150 Muslim families. Katherine Hughes of the Dr. Dhafir Support Committee will speak briefly about the case, followed by 5 minutes of silence for individual reflection and/or prayer.

When: Tuesday, February 26th, 2013, 12.00-12.30 p.m.

Where: In front of the James M. Hanley Federal Building in downtown Syracuse, 100 S. Clinton St.


What: An evening celebrating the life and work of Dr. Dhafir. Stephen Downs will speak about Dr. Dhafir’s case in the wider context of what is happening to Muslims nationally in the U.S. government’s war on terror. In particular, Downs will speak to the fate of Muslim charity in the post-9/11 U.S.

Downs retired in 2003 as chief attorney with the NY State Commission on Judicial Conduct. In 2006, he volunteered as part of the defense team in U.S. v. Yassin Aref. He is a member of the Muslim Solidarity Committee and Project SALAM, and executive director of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF). His talk will be followed by a question and answer time and testimonies celebrating the life and work of Dr. Dhafir. Refreshments will follow.

When: Tuesday, February 26th, 2013, 6 — 8 p.m.

Where: The Islamic Society of Central New York (ISCNY), 925 Comstock Ave, Syracuse, NY 13210


February 26th, 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of the arrest and incarceration of upstate New York oncologist Dr. Rafil Dhafir, founder of Help the Needy Muslim charity.  On that morning, between the hours of 6 and 10 a.m., others associated with the charity were also arrested, and 150 local Muslim families were interrogated: Immigration agents visited non-citizens, FBI agents visited citizens, and IRS agents visited doctors’ offices and other businesses. Speaking on the day of his sentencing Dr. Dhafir said:

What was the result of Feb 26, 2003 besides imprisoning of innocent people? Scores of innocent elderly American cancer patients died needlessly, innumerable tens of thousands of Iraqi needy (children, women and men) died, and more than that suffered malnutrition and the humiliation of poverty. An entire segment of our society here was treated as criminals, intimidated, interrogated and threatened. Never in the history of the Islamic Society of Central New York had we had so many cases of depression and suicide that the mosque had to engage the services of a psychiatrist to help out. The dream of this Republic being a sanctuary for the oppressed was shattered on that day and a new sad reality was erected in its place.

Dr. Dhafir’s Sentencing Statement, October 27, 2005 (p.36)

For the crime of sending food and medicine to starving Iraqi civilians during the brutal 13-year U.S.- and U.K.-sponsored UN embargo on that country, Dhafir was sentenced to 22 years in prison. On February 3rd, 2012, unmoved by the letters he received asking for clemency on behalf of Dr. Dhafir, including letters from Denis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck, both of whom resigned after long careers with the UN because they were unwilling to implement a “genocidal policy of sanctions against Iraq,” Judge Norman Mordue resentenced Dhafir to 22 years. Contributing to Mordue’s decision was the fact that Dhafir continues to show no remorse for sending food and medicine to sick and starving civilians in Iraq during the U.S. and U.K.-led UN embargo. Representatives of the Dr. Dhafir Support Committee, including Denis Halliday, recently attended oral arguments for a second appeal at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  The appeal was denied three days later with no response from the panel to the strong legal points in Dhafir’s favor of a much lesser sentence. Around the world people who were opposed to the sanctions are saddened that Dr. Dhafir has paid such a heavy price for his crime of compassion; The Dr. Dhafir Support Committee and others will continue to seek justice for Dhafir.  Katherine Hughes is currently at work on a documentary, A Court Watcher’s Story: Criminalizing Compassion in the ‘War on Terror’

More information about these events, or to schedule and interviews contact:

Katherine Hughes, Dr. Dhafir Support Committee, Tel: 315 479 6897, katherinehugh [at]; Steve Downs, executive director of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, Tel: 518 767 0102, swdowns68 [at]; Mohamed Khater, President of the Islamic Society of Central New York, Cell: 315 559 4300, mkhater [at]