For immediate release Contact: Voices in the Wilderness
December 4, 1997 Chicago: 773-784-8065

"US Customs Officials Detain Delegation Returning from Iraq and Confiscate their Belongings"

Chicago--On December 3, 1997, at the Detroit Airport's international terminal, US Customs Agents detained three Voices in the Wilderness delegation members returning from Iraq and confiscated their video footage, film, enlarged photos of Iraqi children, personal diaries and campaign documents. The agents said the confiscated belongings provided evidence that a crime had been committed. "They told me the videos contained evidence of a crime," said Dan Handelman, of Portland, Oregon, who recorded video footage of his ten day travel through Iraq. "I say they are right, - the crime against humanity. But the customs agent cannot take what we have here and here," he continued, pointing to his head and heart. Handelman traveled to Iraq along with three others, Bert Sacks, of Seattle, WA; Rev. Randall Mullins of Seattle, WA; and Joe Zito, of Takoma, WA. The delegation traveled on behalf of Voices in the Wilderness, a campaign to end the UN/US sanctions against Iraq. All four traveled to Iraq in open violation of the UN/US sanctions.

The delegation hopes to retrieve the video footage and other educational information in which they documented the devastating effect of UN/US sanctions against the people of Iraq. Claiming that democracy is based on information, the group members believe that their travel to Baghdad and Basra, in southern Iraq, provided them with clear and compelling evidence of the criminal abuse inflicted on Iraqi civilians, especially children, by the continuation of economic sanctions. The group's findings are supported by a November 26, 1997 UNICEF statement. Speaking of the consequences of the economic sanctions, the document states: "The most alarming results are those on malnutrition, with 32 percent of children under the age of five, some 960,000 children, chronically malnourished--a rise of 72 per cent since 1991." Philippe Heffnick, UNICEF Representative in Baghdad said, "It is clear that children are bearing the brunt of the current economic hardship. They must be protected from the impact of sanctions. Otherwise, they will continue to suffer, and that we cannot accept."

Delegation members can be reached by contacting the number listed above.


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