November 15, 2003
By Ngoc Huynh
Contributing writer/Syracuse Post Standard
Supporters of a Manlius doctor jailed on charges he illegally sent money to Iraq marched Friday in front of the Onondaga County Justice Center with a banner that read: "The U.S. attorney has ruined our Ramadan by refusing bail for our brother Rafil."
Dr. Rafil Dhafir, accused of violating sanctions against Iraq by sending money there through his DeWitt-based charity, Help the Needy, has been denied bail three times since his arrest in February. A judge ruled that Dhafir was a risk to flee the country.
More than a 100 Muslims and non-Muslims arrived at the justice center's State Street entrance at 2 p.m. to show their support for Dhafir.
Mohammad Al Wahaidy, 12, of Fayetteville, was the first in the crowd to shout, "Free Dr. Dhafir!" He is the son of Osameh Al Wahaidy, 41, one of four men originally charged in the Help the Needy case. The elder Al Wahaidy pleaded guilty in April to one count of violating the sanctions.
As others joined in his chant, another voice sang, "We miss him. He's a good man."
Several cars passed by and motorists honked and waved.
Imam Ahmed Kobeisy, who heads the Islamic Society of Central New York, said Dhafir has strong ties with the community and is not a flight risk.
"We would like to have him reunited with the community in the month of Ramadan," Kobeisy said. "We would like to celebrate with him, fasting and praying with fellow Muslims."
Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, ends Nov. 25. During this time, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, pray, meditate and do acts of charity.
U.S. District Judge Norman Mordue rejected Dhafir's last bail request in July. Dhafir, an oncologist, is considered a flight risk because of his financial assets and overseas contacts, judges have said.
In addition to the charges that he violated sanctions against Iraq, Dhafir is accused of evading $400,000 in federal income tax payments by falsely writing off donations to Help the Needy, and of defrauding Medicare out of more than $274,000.
Haikal Abughoush, rally organizer, has known Dhafir for 20 years. He said the government is looking for reasons to keep his friend in jail.
"They had egg on their face," he said, "so they needed to find something. What they found was further charges."
2003 The Post-Standard.