The Nuclear Resister 

After full consideration of a document prepared on his behalf, Rafil Dhafir decided he could not sign it as the “Petitioner” for executive clemency. “How can an innocent person like me ask for this alleged commutation from a criminal, regardless of who she/he is?” asks Dhafir.

The 68-year-old immigrant oncologist’s awareness of the crimes of American presidents against his native Iraq led him to become an opponent of the 1991–2003 U.S. sanctions against that country. As a respected physician and leader among upstate New York Muslims, he established a charity for the beleaguered Iraqis, and donated well over $1 million of his own money to their needs.

Rafil Dhafir has been imprisoned since his surprise arrest on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when he was denied bail and accused by federal officials of funding terrorists. The day of his arrest, FBI agents seized all of his personal and business records, and in an intimidating sweep, soon interrogated 150 Muslim families in the Syracuse area. When Dhafir refused a plea bargain on the original 14 charges related to the Iraq sanctions, the government responded with a 59-count indictment, expanding the prosecution to include 25 counts of Medicare fraud for receiving improper reimbursements totaling much less than the charity he gave. No evidence of funding terrorism came into the trial, so the defense was not permitted to mention or refute the widely-publicized accusation.

A nearly two-year-old federal court petition for a change in Dhafir’s prison designation has still received no response. Dhafir has since sworn supplemental declarations to document ongoing harassment, which he believes is due both to his religion and having filed the suit itself. For example, twice during Ramadan this summer his cell was “trashed” and clearly-labeled Ramadan food was taken and not returned, while his cellmate’s property was left untouched.

Dhafir is also applying for non-medical compassionate release. Newly amended federal guidelines will go into effect in November, and Dhafir should then be eligible based on his age and having served the minimum 10 years. He will need the warden’s recommendation.

“I just pray that all good people never have to face what I am going through of tyranny and mediocrity,” he writes.
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Letters of support should be sent to Rafil Dhafir  11921-052, FMC Devens Unit GB, Federal Medical Center, P.O. Box 879, Ayer, MA  01432.