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Peace Activists Refuse to Pay U.S. Fines Over Trips to Iraq

Two peace activists, including one from Chicago, are refusing to pay $30,000 in federal fines for traveling to Iraq to provide medicine there in violation of U.S. sanctions.

"We don't believe it's a crime" to give medicine to needy people, said Kathy Kelly, founder of the Chicago-based Voices in the Wilderness, in a telephone interview Wednesday from Baghdad. "Giving money to the U.S. government is pretty repugnant to us right now."

Kelly and her group were fined $20,000, and Dan Handelman, a longtime Portland peace activist associated with the group, was fined $10,000 in connection with their travels to Iraq.

Handelman said he would refuse to pay the fine as part of his continuing protest against the U.S. sanctions, which he charged violate international law because of the harm he said they're inflicting on Iraqi civilians.

U.S. law prohibits exports and other transactions with Iraq as well as travel to that country by Americans unless they are journalists or on official government business. On Nov. 4, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, part of the Treasury Department, issued orders to Handelman, Kelly and the Voices group to pay the fines within 30 days.

The fine against Handelman stemmed from a November 1997 trip he made with the group to Iraq to distribute about 500 pounds of medicine. Customs officials seized photographs and videotapes he made there, and he was later fined for travel-related expenses prohibited by the U.S. sanctions.

Kelly, a former schoolteacher, said she founded the group after concluding that U.S. and United Nations sanctions were causing widespread suffering in Iraq by wreaking havoc on the country's economy, health care and education.




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