ACLU Michigan

1249 Washington Blvd #2910
Detroit, MI 48226-1822
Phone 313.961.4662
Fax 313.961.9005



Contacts: Michael J. Steinberg - (313) 961-7728

Thursday, July 6, 2000

Daniel Handelman - (503) 299-4798
Kurt Berggren (734) 996-0722

    DETROIT -- A peace activist opposed to the United States embargo against Iraq announced today that he has won his long struggle with U.S. Customs Office to return illegally seized film and videocassettes of conditions in Iraq. In a settlement, negotiated by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the Center for Constitutional Rights, the United States has agreed to return Daniel Handelman's materials and pay him $15,000 in damages and attorney fees.

    "The United States' attempt to suppress evidence of human suffering in Iraq was a blatant violation of the First Amendment," said Kurt Berggren, an ACLU cooperating attorney who represented Handelman. "In a true democracy, the government cannot censor information simply because it reflects poorly on a governmental policy."

    Handelman traveled to Iraq in December, 1997, with a peace delegation to determine the impact that sanctions have had against the people of Iraq. Using a camera and camcorder, Handelman documented the conditions in Iraq and he planned to use to photographs and videotape to educate Americans upon his return to the United States.

    However, when Handelman returned to the U.S., customs officials at Detroit Metro Airport seized the film and videocassettes from Handelman, claiming that they were illegally imported "goods or services of Iraq." Handelman struggled for two years through administrative appeals to retrieve the materials.

    When those efforts were unsuccessful, Handelman filed a lawsuit asserting that the Customs Service violated his First amendment rights by preventing him from disseminating images of Iraq. He also alleged that the film and videocassettes, which he had purchased in the United States, were not "goods or services" of Iraq.

    "I hope this case will help draw attention to the United States' attempt to cover up the horrid consequences of the embargo on the people of Iraq," stated Handelman.

    Handelman was represented by Berggren, Michael J. Steinberg, Legal Director of the ACLU of Michigan, and Nancy Chang, an attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). CCR is a progressive, non-profit legal organization based in New York that opposes sanctions against Iraq and Cuba. For more information about the lawsuit, see


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