SARASOTA, Fla. -- A retired schoolteacher who went to Iraq to serve as a "human shield" against the U.S. invasion is facing thousands of dollars in U.S. government fines, which she is refusing to pay.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury said in a March letter to Faith Fippinger that she broke the law by crossing the Iraqi border before the war. Her travel to Iraq violated U.S. sanctions that prohibited American citizens from engaging in "virtually all direct or indirect commercial, financial or trade transactions with Iraq."
She and others from 30 countries spread out through Iraq to prevent the war. She spent about three months there. Only about 20 of nearly 300 "human shields" were Americans, she said.
Fippinger, who returned home May 4, is being fined at least $10,000, but she has refused to pay. She could face up to 12 years in prison.
In her response to the charges, she wrote the government that "if it comes to fines or imprisonment, "please be aware that I will not contribute money to the United States government to continue the buildup of its arsenal of weapons." Since she won't pay, she said, "perhaps the alternative should be considered."
The government also has asked Fippinger, 62, to detail her travels to Iraq and any financial transactions she made. In her response, Fippinger wrote that the only money she spent was on food and emergency supplies.
If Fippinger does not pay, the fine may increase, and the money will be drawn from her retirement paycheck, her Social Security check or any of her assets, officials said.
"She was (in Iraq) in violation of U.S. sanctions," said Taylor Griffin, a Treasury Department spokesman. "That's what happens."
Shortly before the U.S. invasion in March, Fippinger was one of several dozen human shields scattered around a refinery in Baghdad.
"We are planning to stay here in the refinery if war breaks out," Fippinger said at the time. "We are staying here because we think this war is unjust."
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