Dr. Dhafir Looks Forward to Trial
by Madis Senner
Much has changed since Dr. Rafil Dhafir was arrested on February
26, 2003 at his home in Manlius for sending humanitarian aid to Iraq. The climate
of fear created by his arrest and by the interrogation of 150Muslim families
locally that had donated to his charity, Help the Needy, has diminished.
The governments campaign against Dr. Dhafir and those close
to him, however, continued after his arrest. Additional charges of Medicare
fraud, tax evasion and the misuse of charity money were piled on. Facing the
prospect of long prison sentences the other defendants in the case (including
his wife, Priscilla) pled guilty. The government was successfully turning what
should have been a civil rights case into a muddy mess to sideline potential
supporters. It has continued to imply that Dr. Dhafir was a terrorist, while
denying the insinuation in court and to the press. Some in the media all too
eagerly supported this effort.
When the invasion of Iraq was declared over by George
Bush, things started to change. The veil of fear began lifting and Muslim participation
in support actions increased. Last November the government denied one of the
defense team access to the Justice Center to see Dr. Dhafir. A week later when
a rally was scheduled in front of the Justice Center, he was moved to the Onondaga
County Prison in Jamesville where he remains today, having been denied bail
On the one-year anniversary of Dr. Dhafirs arrest the local
Bill of Rights Defense Campaign commemorated the harassment of the 150 Muslim
families. A Dhafir support rally was held at Syracuse Universitys Hendricks
Chapel preceded by a spirited march. There Dr. Dhafirs patients, friends
and colleagues testified about how he had helped them paying tuition,
letting medical bills slide or providing spiritual guidance.
Dr. Dhafirs prospects continued to improve when other high
profile cases went against the government. Muslim Chaplain Captain Yee of Guantanamo
Bay was released in April. In June Sami Al Hussayen, arrested the same day as
Dr. Dhafir and accused of raising money for charities that allegedly funded
terrorist organizations, was acquitted. It should be noted that no Muslim charity
has been found guilty of anything. But this hasnt stopped the governments
assault on these charities.
On August 5 Governor Pataki referred to Help the Needy as the
money laundering operation, one of three major terrorist arrests in Upstate
NY. An August 8 Post-Standard editorial responded:
Patakis public remarks seemed to confirm what Dhafir
and his supporters have been saying all along that the federal case against
Dhafir is a political prosecution as well as a criminal one.
Patakis remarks also confirmed that our strategy of focusing on the media to win Dr. Dhafirs freedom was bearing fruit. Whether he is exonerated will depend to a significant degree on the public support for him expressed around the trial.
Madis is a Wall Street worker turned activist. For more information see <www.jubilee initiative.org/FreeDhafir.htm> or (315) 463-5369.
What You Can Do
With the trial slated to begin September 27 at the Federal Building
in downtown Syracuse, a variety of actions are planned. In addition you can:
· write letters to Judge Mordue (ccing the Post-Standard and <firstname.lastname@example.org>) saying if such is the case that you also violated the Iraq Sanctions and were not arrested.
· volunteer to serve as a court monitor during part of the trial.
· attend daily prayer vigils (led by various religious leaders) at the courthouse.
· take part in other possible actions between 2 and 6 pm at the Federal Building during the trial.