If a man steals food -- or violates sanctions -- to feed his family, is it a crime?

By David Finke
Jeff Stack and Rev. Maureen Dickman are hosting a community potluck tonight for Shakir Hamoodi, who must start serving a 36-month federal prison sentence. 
Shakir's "crime" to which he had to admit in a plea agreement (to avoid an even longer sentence) was that he sent money to his family in Iraq during the UN/US sanctions regime: 1990-2003.
His mother was going blind; his sister lost a baby because they couldn't get $10 worth of antibiotics. As so many in Columbia have been saying since we were stunned to learn his sentence several months ago, "Who among us wouldn't have tried to do the same?"
Shakir Hamoodi's only chance for not having to be separated from his family for the next 3 years is to be granted Executive Clemency. We don't expect that the President will act on this request until after the fall elections, and in fact the appropriate documents can't be filed until Shakir is locked up.

But a highly committed group in town including people who have never been "political" before is organizing to do our best to bring this to President Obama's attention, including working with the cooperative staff of our Senator McCaskill.
Our friend Shakir is a naturalized American citizen who came from Iraq to the U.S. to study nuclear engineering, for which he has a doctorate and on which he was teaching at the "Mizzou" campus here. I find it significant that he chose not to return to Iraq where his skills might have been used to build weapons for Saddam Hussein. Our government has "thanked" him for this service by having raided his home and seized records 6 years ago.

However, after 5 years of searching through them with Shakir's full cooperation, they found no evidence that any of the money he transmitted went for anything other than humanitarian relief to individuals.

We're delighted how much positive publicity Shakir, as a community leader, has gained. At the very least, I hope you'll take the next minute to click this link:


and add your name to the 3,500 plus signatures we have on an electronic petition.
We are also collecting the best personalized letters of support to add to the official Petition to be filed August 28th with the Justice Department's "Office of the Pardon Attorney." I feel honored to be part of this work, and also to serve as trustee of the "Hamoodi Family Benefit Trust" established to help the family during their breadwinner's absence.

This is as clear a case as I've ever witnessed of the necessity for concerned citizens to come together with compassion to try to undue a manifest injustice.