Iraqi-American Shakir Hamoodi will turn himself in to a federal prison on August 28 to serve a three year sentence for personal charity sent to family in Iraq in violation of the 1991-2003 sanctions on such trade. Family and friends of the Columbia, Missouri import grocer ask that supporters sign the petition for Presidential pardon, from the link at helphamoodi.org. Please see Inside & Out after August 29 for his prison address.
[Background from the June 5, 2012 print edition of the Nuclear Resister, #166]
Shakir Hamoodi, Iraqi-born physicist, community leader, businessman and active opponent of U.S. wars on his native land, was sentenced May 16 to three years in federal prison for violating the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq from 1991 to 2003. The Columbia, Missouri father of five pled guilty in December 2009 to one count of violating the Iraq sanctions in effect at the time. Hamoodi never denied sending more than $200,000 to family and friends still living in Iraq over a nine year period. He is to report to prison on August 28, after observing Ramadan.
Hamoodi was born into a large family in central Iraq, and studied there and in Scotland and France before he and his Iraqi-born wife moved to Columbia in 1985, where he studied and worked as an assistant research professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Missouri. After the sanctions and war began in 1990-1991, the couple pursued citizenship and made Columbia their home.
After leaving the University, Hamoodi opened World Harvest Foods in 2004, an international grocery in Columbia. The couple was active in the local Islamic community, and Hamoodi brought together community and religious leaders in public forums to promote tolerance. He also took part in peace demonstrations and told a local newspaper in 2003, “I’ve been opposed to sanctions, and I’m opposed to the United States’ current foreign policy in the region. I sincerely do not find any justification for this.”
In a highly publicized 2004 raid, the government shut down the Islamic American Relief Agency, an unrelated Columbia-based charity, for allegedly funding terrorism. Nearly two years later, the FBI met with Muslim community leaders concerned about racial profiling in the wake of this raid. Hamoodi attended this meeting. Three day later, his home was raided.
Hamoodi was nothing if not fully cooperative. He had not known his simple gifts to family and friends in Iraq were illegal at the time, and was shocked by his prosecution. As receipts, he showed prosecutors letters from Iraq, thanking him for his gifts and telling Hamoodi how they had helped. A team of federal prosecutors could find no evidence that any of the gifts were diverted to other people or organizations.
The case lay dormant for years before a second team of prosecutors picked it up. In court they argued that the money, once in Iraq, could have been taxed by the government of Saddam Hussein. Under pressure, Hamoodi pleaded guilty to a single count, hoping for leniency. When he finally stood before U. S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey, he told her, “I made a mistake, and I am deeply sorry. All money sent was used by friends and family.” While less than the four year sentence recommended by the government, the three year term shocked supporters.
The Hamoodi Family Benefit Trust (c/o Law Office, 1103 East Broadway, Columbia, MO 65201) has been established through his attorney to assist the family while Hamoodi is in prison, and an online petition is collecting signatures in support of Presidential commutation of his sentence. To sign the petition and contribute to the trust, visit www.helphamoodi.org.