Friends of Voices in the Wilderness/Portland
For Immediate Release June 26, 2005
LOCAL ACTIVIST AND CAMPAIGN CHALLENGE FINE FOR IRAQ SANCTIONS
Along with Voices in the Wilderness, US Treasury Wants $10,000 from Dan Handelman
On Wednesday, July 6, a local activist will join the campaign Voices in the Wilderness (VitW) in Federal Court in Washington, DC as it continues its defense against a $20,000 fine the U.S. government imposed for bringing medicine to Iraq in 1998. Local activist Dan Handelman joined VitW in 1997 and also faces $10,000 in fines, not specifically a subject of the July 6 hearing. Handelman can be reached for interviews by leaving a message in Portland at 503-299-4798 but will only be available sporadically before leaving for the east coast on Tuesday night, June 28.
In addition to the court date, VitW will be holding a news conference at the National Press Club (529 14th St NW) at 1:30 PM on Tuesday, July 5.
The campaign's hearing, challenging the US policy of economic sanctions and therefore the fine proposed by the Treasury Department and its Office of Foreign Assets Control, actually began about a year ago in DC. The Judge has called VitW back into court to continue its oral arguments, a highly unusual move.
While the UN sanctions on Iraq specifically permitted the importation of humanitarian goods such as medicine, the US had its own sanctions regime through OFAC which required a permit. Voices' position is that the sanctions were a weapon of mass destruction, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and therefore began traveling to Iraq in 1996 in principled violation of the law.
"Suffering children have been the consistent result of U.S. policy towards Iraq - previously under sanctions and now under occupation," said Kathy Kelly, a founder of the national VitW. "VitW has openly challenged those sanctions by taking medicines to Iraq from 1996 to 2003 during sanctions, and we denounce the U.S. occupation of Iraq today. Because we have challenged the inhumane sanctions and occupation, Voices has been fined thousands of dollars and hauled into federal court, while oil tankers from U.S. companies filled up at Iraqi ports during that same time, made millions selling Saddam Hussein's oil, and appear to be getting off with no criminal or civil penalties."
Handelman, who traveled to Iraq both in 1997 and 2002 with the campaign, adds that "The U.S. government, under both Presidents Clinton and Bush, has pursued the economic domination and the direct occupation of Iraq. Meanwhile, Iraqi children continue to suffer and starve with a malnutrition rate equal to that under sanctions. Those who oppose that policy are punished, but those who profit from it get away with millions."
Voices expects that the Judge may not make a final ruling on July 6. At the previous hearing, most of the important legal points raised regarding the sanctions and their violation of international law were thrown out by the judge, whose main focus at this point is why it took the Federal Government from 1998 to 2003, almost the entire 5 years allowed under law, to impose the fines. Several individuals, including Handelman, Bert Sacks of the Seattle area, and Kathy Kelly, a founder of VitW, were also fined, but only the organization's case has gotten to the Federal Circuit Court hearing.
VitW is calling for people to hold rallies, vigils, call-ins to their elected officials, and other activities during its two days in Washington. Some members are currently in Geneva, Switzerland fasting in hopes that the world will cancel most of Iraq's odious debt to help the people get back on their feet without massive "shock therapy" from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The debt will turn Iraq's riches over to the world's wealthiest, instead of the people who continue to live without clean water or fully functioning electricity.
Messages for Dan Handelman at Friends of Voices in the Wilderness/Portland can be left at 503-299-4798 to arrange interviews on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, June 26-28. To contact Voices in the Wilderness' international headquarters in Chicago call 773-784-8065. From June 30 to July 6, Handelman will be checking the voice mail and may be able to conduct phone interviews from the east coast. Voices will also be contacting local network affiliates in Washington DC on July 5 and 6.
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