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U.S. Anti-War Group Won't Pay Iraq Sanctions Fine
Published on Thursday, August 18, 2005 by Reuters
U.S. Anti-War Group Won't Pay Iraq Sanctions Fine
by Abid Aslam

CHICAGO - U.S. peace activists faced with a $20,000 fine for violating U.S. sanctions against Iraq seven years ago for delivering medical supplies said on Tuesday they will go to jail before paying the fine.

We will go openly and lovingly to jail.

Kathy Kelly, co-founder, Voices in the Wilderness
"For 15 years our government has waged economic and military warfare against the people of Iraq," Jeff Leys, a coordinator for the group, Voices in the Wilderness, told a press conference here. "We will not comply, we will not collaborate."

On Friday, a federal judge ordered the organization, one of the largest American anti-embargo groups in the 1990s, to pay a $20,000 fine imposed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 2002.

The fine was issued by the government after group members carried medicines and medical supplies to Iraq in 1998 without asking for a license to export humanitarian supplies.

The Chicago-based group was one of many U.S. and European organizations that in the 1990s defied trade sanctions to deliver medicines to Iraqi hospitals.

A Treasury spokeswoman on Tuesday declined to comment on the judge's ruling. But she said the government will continue to file civil charges against Americans who break U.S. law that puts sanctions on other countries.

The trade sanctions, implemented in 1990 after Iraq's invasion of neighboring Kuwait, banned Americans from engaging in direct or indirect commercial trade with Iraq during Saddam Hussein's rule.

If the fine is not paid, some members of the activist group could face criminal charges that carry a maximum sentence of 12 years each in federal prison.

"We will go openly and lovingly" to jail, the group's co-founder Kathy Kelly told reporters at the press briefing.

The anti-war group, founded in 1996, said it had sent more than 600 people to Iraq before the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Activists who traveled to Iraq during the U.S. sanctions, which ended in May of 2003, said hospitals lacked basic medicines such as aspirin and antibiotics, and that conditions were deplorable.

A 1999 United Nations report found that under the sanctions child mortality in Iraq more than doubled from 56 deaths per 1,000 live births to 131 deaths per 1,000 live births in only a decade.

Since 2003 the U.S. government has fined several companies and organizations for violating past economic sanctions against Iraq. Some individuals have also been fined for exporting goods to Iraq without a license.

Bert Sacks, a retired computer engineer from Seattle, refused last year to pay a $10,000 fine for bringing medicines to Iraq.

"Our sanctions killed thousands of Iraqi children," Sacks said in a telephone interview.

Sacks said he made nine trips to Iraq in which he brought about $40,000 worth in medicines to Iraqi hospitals.

© 2005 Reuters


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