ACLU of Wisconsin Defends Local Man Accused of Travel to Iraq as "Human Shield"

Affiliate: ACLU of Wisconsin
August 23, 2004 12:00 am

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Peace Activist Slapped with $10,000 Fine and Threat of Jail


MILWAUKEE – The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin today filed papers in defense of peace activist and Milwaukee-area businessman Ryan Clancy contesting the imposition of a $10,000 fine by the federal Office of Foreign Assets Control because Clancy allegedly traveled to Iraq prior to the beginning of the war last year to act as a “”human shield.””

“”The government does not claim that Ryan Clancy provided any financial benefit to the Iraqi government or even to any individual Iraqis,”” said ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Christopher Ahmuty. “”This fine clearly isn’t about controlling ‘foreign assets.’ It’s about suppressing the freedom of patriotic Americans to travel and learn for themselves what is going on in countries like Iraq and then punishing those who have the courage to question the government’s version of events upon their return.””

Legal papers filed today by the ACLU of Wisconsin and volunteer ACLU attorneys from Madison argued that the office’s rules violate Clancy’s rights to due process and freedom of travel and speech.

“”Under the government’s rules,”” said Larry Dupuis, the ACLU’s state legal director, “”a person could fly to Jordan or Turkey, walk across the border to Iraq and ask people what they thought of Saddam Hussein or George Bush and walk right back without spending a cent and still be subject to a huge fine, and even criminal prosecution.””

To make matters worse, the government’s rules do not give a person a meaningful opportunity to challenge the fine. The regulations do not permit a person to find out the basis for the government’s accusations, to confront witnesses, or to have a hearing with a neutral decision-maker.

“”It’s another example of the executive branch’s contempt for fundamental principles of due process,”” Dupuis said. “”First, the administration tried to hold U.S. citizens in indefinite detention without meaningful court review, until the Supreme Court resoundingly affirmed that a person – even a so-called “”enemy combatant”” – can’t be deprived of liberty without due process. Now the administration is trying to take the property of U.S. citizens who question U.S. policy, again without a hearing and due process.””

The ACLU’s filing today asks that the fine be dismissed in its entirety. The ACLU noted in the letter that “”while the civil penalties set forth in the regulations are significant – OFAC intends to seek $10,000 and notes that it could seek as much as $250,000 for each violation of the regulations – the potential criminal penalties are even more severe. If convicted of certain related criminal offenses, Mr. Clancy could face up to 12 years in prison and $1 million in fines.””

The filing is online at /node/23017

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