The site’s primary author Katherine Hughes was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland in the 1960s. She left Scotland in 1976 and had a wide variety of travel, educational, and work experiences before discovering clay in mid-life. She has lived in Syracuse, New York, since 1988 with her American husband whom she met at a Quaker study and retreat center in Birmingham, England. She has degrees in Religion and Depth Psychology (B.A. Syracuse University, 1991), and Ceramics (B.F.A. Syracuse University, 2007).
She has felt passionately about the defense of civil liberties since the age of fourteen when she saw a documentary of the Allies going into the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. Over the last thirty years she has read hundreds of first hand accounts of 1930/40s Europe in an effort to gain understanding of how ordinary people could let something like this happen.
This concern prompted her to respond to a call from the ACLU for court watchers at the trial of Dr. Rafil Dhafir. (She was one of a core group of about a dozen court watchers, several of whom attended virtually all of the trial.) Dhafir is a man of Muslim faith and Iraqi descent and was held without bail for 19 months prior to his trial. On the day of his arrest Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that “supporters of terrorism” had been apprehended, and just prior to the start of the trial New York State Governor Pataki reiterated this charge. However, no charges of terrorism were ever brought against Dhafir.
She did not know Dhafir before attending the trial and almost everything she knows about him comes from her witness of the proceedings. She attended almost all of the 14-week trial and took notes for 5 hours each day. While attending the trial she found that she could not in good conscience be the uninvolved court observer the ACLU required and began to speak out. Because of the inadequate press coverage she started this website and has written several articles about the case.
[8/24/08 Correction: The trial was 14 weeks long. For some time I've written that it was 17 weeks long (it just felt like that!), I am currently trying to correct this as best I can. Katherine.] Â 2/19/13 The trial was 4 days a week and this has caused some confusion: the prosecution calls it a 17-week trial, and the defense appeal attorney calls it a 14-week trial.
Read Katherine’s most recent article: Anatomy of a ‘Terrorism’ Prosecution: Dr. Rafil Dhafir and the Help the Needy Muslim Charity Case
Hear Katherine’s most recent interview 10/17/11 (30 minutes).
Watch a WCNY interview with Katherine, Barrie Gewanter of CNYCLU, and court watcher Julienne Oldfield (30 minutes). Â It aired at 11 p.m. on October 26th 2005, the eve of Dr. Dhafir’s sentencing to 22 years.
Listen to aÂ 30-minute interview of Katherine given after Dr. Dhafir was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
See Katherine’s January 2005 email to John O’Brien, the reporter who covered Dr. Dhafir’s trial for the Post-Standard: Why I am attending the trial.
Articles by Katherine here.