Civil Action No. 99CV74612DT
Honorable Arthur J. Tarnow
Filed 99 Sep. 21 PM 2:29

by and through its officers and agents
of the United States Customs Service,
an agency of the United States
Department of Treasury,




1. This is an action for damages and injunctive and declaratory relief and costs and

reasonable attorney's fees for the illegal and unconstitutional seizure of Plaintiff's personal

property, including videotapes and undeveloped photographic film, by the Defendant's Customs

officials in Detroit, Michigan. The Plaintiff had taken from the United States videotapes and film,

which he used to film and record life in Iraq under the existing economic sanctions. Upon

returning to the United States on December 3, 1997, his tapes and film and other property were

seized by the Defendant, allegedly based on federal statutes, regulations and executive orders.

Plaintiff exhausted administrative remedies and has tried for almost two years to get his tapes, film,

and other property back, but the Defendant, through its Customs agents, has denied him the right

to his property and has threatened the forfeiture and destruction of his property.



2. Since the complaint alleges constitutional and statutory violations against the United

States of America, jurisdiction is properly in the United States District Court; and, in addition,

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(e) also grants jurisdiction by permitting an aggrieved

person deprived of his property by an unlawful seizure the right to "move the district court for the

district in which the property was seized for the return of the property on the ground that such

person is entitled to lawful possession of the property." The venue is appropriate in the Eastern

District of Michigan where the seizure took place. Jurisdiction is additionally appropriate pursuant

to 28 USC 1331.


3. Plaintiff Daniel Handelman is a United States Citizen and resident of Portland, Oregon;

and, his property was illegally seized in Detroit, Michigan by Defendant's Customs officials in

December of 1997 as he was returning to the United States from a visit to Iraq.

4. The United States of America, by and through its officers and agents of the United

States Customs Service, an agency of the United States Department of the Treasury, is the



5. Plaintiff, in November and December of 1997, traveled to Iraq, as part of a human rights

delegation, to meet with Iraqi people and officials in order to assess, report on and record the

impact of the United States' economic sanctions and embargo policies. Plaintiff took with him

his filming and videotaping equipment that he had purchased in the United States; and, while in


Iraq, he took photographs and videotapes of what he observed and what he perceived as the severe

hardships directly resulting from the economic sanctions.

6. Upon entering the United States on December 3, 1997 at Detroit, Michigan, his personal

property was seized by Customs officials. According to the Defendant's seizure papers, taken from

Plaintiff were Iraqi currency, postcards, video and audiotapes, a water bottle label, video cassettes,

photographic film, assorted papers and Iraqi stamps.

7. Plaintiff's personal property was seized allegedly under the authority of 19 USC

1595a(c)(2)(B) for alleged violations of 31 CFR Part 575.204, which prohibits the importation of

goods or services of Iraqi origin. The Defendant's legal position setting out its alleged authority

for the seizure is contained in the December 15, 1998 letter to Plaintiff from Mr. Woodard of the

U.S. Customs Service, which is attached as Plaintiff's Exhibit 1 and incorporated herein by


8. The Defendant, through its agents, was told on numerous occasions that the seized film

and tapes were not of Iraqi origin in that they had been purchased in the United States, but all of

the federal officials to whom this position was articulated refused to return Plaintiff's goods to

him. Plaintiff's arguments to the Defendant are best summarized in the attached letter of January 8,

1998, and the attached Supplemental Petition of December 27, 1998, which are Plaintiff's Exhibits

2 and 3 and both are incorporated herein by reference.

9. The film and tapes were intended to be used by Plaintiff in various educational and

media-related settings, including slide shows and exhibits, so as to assist and educate the people

of the United States in understanding the severity to the hardships emanating from the United

States' policy of economic sanctions against the people of Iraq. The ultimate purpose of the media

equipment and products was the change the illegal and inhumane policy of the United


States, which appears to be in violation of international law, in particular the Hague Conventions

and the Geneva Conventions.

10. Plaintiff has been informed by officials of the U.S. Customs Service in Detroit,

Michigan, that in the very near future his property will be subject to forfeiture proceedings,

pursuant to 19 USC 1608; and, if forfeited, he will no longer have any legal rights to his seized

personal property.


11. The actions, as well as the policies, regulations and statutes and statutory

interpretations of the Defendant's officials and agents relied on in seizing Plaintiff's property,

particularly his film and videotapes, is violative of Plaintiff's First Amendment rights relative to

freedoms of speech, press, the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and the right to petition

the government for a redress of grievances, pursuant to the United States Constitution.


12. The illegal seizure by the Defendant's agents and officials violates the express language

of the federal statutes and regulations because the film and videotapes were not "goods and

services of Iraqi origin" and because publications and other informational materials are legal

exemptions, and the film and tapes clearly fall within that definition. The illegal seizure clearly

violates the relevant regulatory and statutory provisions set out in the three attached exhibits, as

well as the 1988 Berman Amendment, 50 USCS Appx 5(b), as interpreted in Cerunda v. Heavy,

720 F. Supp. 1544 (S.D. Fla. 1989).


WHEREFORE, Plaintiff requests the following relief:

A. That this Court assume jurisdiction of this case and grant as soon as
practicable all temporary, preliminary and permanent relief sought;

B. That this Court enjoin the Defendant from forfeiting or otherwise
destroying Plaintiff's property and order the Defendant to return
promptly to Plaintiff his property;

C. That this Court enjoin the Defendant from going forward with any
forfeiture proceedings, pursuant to 19 USC 1608 et seq., and order the
Defendant to either return Plaintiff's property or hold it and not destroy it
pending a final judicial determination in this case;

D. That this Court enjoin the Defendant from retaliating in any way against
the Plaintiff for exercising his rights under the Constitution, federal
statutes and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure;

E. That this Court enter a declaratory judgment that the Defendant's actions
and policies challenged herein are and were illegal and unconstitutional;

F. That this Court award Plaintiff compensatory damages for the illegal
seizure in whatever amount the Court deems appropriate, and grant
Plaintiff the declaratory and injunctive relief sought herein;

G. That this Court grant Plaintiff his costs and reasonable attorney's fees;

H. That this Court grant Plaintiff any and all other relief that may be just and

September 21, 1999

Respectfully Submitted,



By: Kurt Berggren (P26991)

Ann Arbor, Michigan


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