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article imageOp-Ed: Iraqi-American citizen sentenced to 3 years for saving his family

By Ken Hanly     Oct 1, 2012 in Crime
Columbia - Dr. Shakir Hamoodi is an Iraqi-American nuclear engineer. He is now serving a three year sentence for sending sustenance money to his impoverished, sick relatives in Iraq, including his blind mother.
Dr. Hamoodi sent money to his Iraqi relatives during a time when U.S. sanctions prohibited sending money to Iraq.
Dr. Hamoodi came with his wife to the U.S. in 1985. He was working toward a PhD in nuclear engineering at the University of MIssouri. He stayed in the U.S. rather than return to the repressive régime of Saddam Hussein. He was a research professor at the university and became a U.S. citizen in 2002. His five children were all born in the U.S.
After the first Gulf War, the U.S.and the U.N. imposed sanctions on Iraq. This caused extreme hardships on Iraqis including his family. Literally hundreds of thousands of children died as a result of the sanctions: :Estimates of excess deaths of children during the sanctions vary widely, but range from a minimum of 100,000[7] to over 500,000 children.
The then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, defended the sanctions:
On May 12, 1996, Madeleine Albright (then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) appeared on a 60 Minutes segment in which Lesley Stahl asked her "We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" and Albright replied "we think the price is worth it."
These sanctions directly impacted Hamoodi's relatives in Iraq. His sister suffered a miscarriage because she could not afford $10 for an antibioltic. At the time Hamood earned about $35,000 per year. He felt that he could not simply ignore the sufferings of his family back in Iraq.
Since he could not send money directly into Iraq, Hamoodi set up an account in Jordan and made small deposits into it. From that account between twenty and one hundred dollars each month was dispersed to his family in Iraq. When other American-Iraqis heard how Hamoodi was helping his family they also wanted to help relatives. Hamoodi also deposited money on their behalf in the Jordan account.
From 1993 to 2003 when sanctions were lifted after the U.S. led invasion, Hamoodi sent an average of $25,000 a year to Iraq on behalf of 14 Iraqi-American families in Columbia Missouri. In total this was an amount of about $250,000 over a decade.
Even the government admits that these funds were used only for humanitarian purposes and none went to the Saddam régime or terrorists. However, Hamoodi was a thorn in the side of the Bush Administration. He insisted that Saddam did not have nuclear weapons or an active nuclear weapons program. This was not the message the U.S. Government wanted to hear.
On Sept. 18, 2006, two FBI agents knocked on Hamoodi's door and behind them were 35 more agents. They spent 9 hours in the Hamoodi home. They took passports, identification, family heirlooms, photo albums and boxes and boxes of documents. Even now six years later, none of the material has been returned.
From the very beginning, Hamoodi cooperated with the authorities. He admitted to sending the money calling it a "crime of compassion", which it certainly was. He pleaded guilty to engaging in "a conspiracy to violate the International Economic Emergency Powers Act". There were numerous delays in the proceedings.
Finally on May 16, 2012 U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey sentenced Hamoodi to three years in a federal penitentiary, followed by three years probation. Others charged with similar offences had received much lighter sentences including just probation.
A Glenn Greenwald sums it up:In a country that has stood by while torturers, government kidnappers, and Wall Street thieves have been completely protected - to say nothing of those who aggressively attacked Iraq - Judge Laughrey, as recounted by Inside Columbia, invoked the mandates of the "rule of law" to explain why Hamoodi, now 60, would have to spend the next three years in a federal prison despite having harmed absolutely nobody:
In spite of her praise of the family Judge Laughrey sternly lectures Hamoodi about the "rule of law":
"'He obviously has a model family, a lovely family, lovely children . . . I am sure it is largely as a result of your leadership in the family,' [the judge] told [Hamoodi]. 'But I have also had to take into account what you did . . . you disagreed with the law, and you decided not to comply with the law. That does not show respect for the rule of law, which is the foundation of this country.'"
This is not a quote from the satirical magazine Onion, it is an actual quote from a Clinton-appointed judge.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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