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   Humanitarian Group Fined for Taking Medicine to Iraq

Humanitarian Group Fined for Taking Medicine to Iraq

On November 6, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed $20,000 in fines on Chicago-based Voices in the Wilderness (VitW), a campaign to end the sanctions on Iraq. Members of VitW affirm that they have traveled to Iraq in nonviolent defiance of US/UN sanctions and announced that they intend to raise thousands of dollars to continue breaking the embargo.

The fines are for delivering medicine to Iraq without a permit in 1998. They are directed against VitW co-founder and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly of Chicago, Ill. Dan Handleman of Portland, Ore., was fined $10,000 for alleged travel-related expenses incurred during a 1997 VitW delegation to Iraq. Earlier this year, Bert Sacks and Rev. Randall Mullins, both of Seattle, were fined $10,000 each for taking part in the same 1997 delegation. They refused to pay, and instead raised over $10,000 to buy more medicine to bring to Iraq. This medicine was delivered by Sacks last September.

The fines come as the organization is sending Americans and other internationals to Iraq almost every week to take part in its Iraq Peace Team. Currently there are 16 volunteers in Baghdad. In the event of another US military assault on Iraq, they intend to help coordinate humanitarian efforts, offer independent reporting, and stand in solidarity with Iraqi civilians. Among the VitW volunteers is Ellen Barfield, of the Hampden community in Baltimore.

"We will not consent to pay any fine," said Kathy Kelly, currently in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team. "We simply reject the government's contention that we cannot carry medicine to the sick, and assert that it is a greater evil to let the children die."


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This story was published on February 10, 2003.
  
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