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 government’s 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 four times.

On the one-year anniversary of Dr. Dhafir’s arrest the local Bill of Rights Defense Campaign commemorated the harassment of the 150 Muslim families. A Dhafir support rally was held at Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel preceded by a spirited march. There Dr. Dhafir’s patients, friends and colleagues testified about how he had helped them — paying tuition, letting medical bills slide or providing spiritual guidance.

Dr. Dhafir’s 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 hasn’t stopped the government’s 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:

“Pataki’s 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.”

Pataki’s remarks also confirmed that our strategy of focusing on the media to win Dr. Dhafir’s 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 (cc’ing the Post-Standard and <madis@twcny.rr.com>) 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.