Guest Author: David Finke
Will you please take 5 minutes to help free a peacemaker from unjust imprisonment?
Shakir Hamoodi — a beloved businessman and father of five, well-known to Columbians as a committed bridge-builder between different faiths and cultures — has been locked up in federal prison since August 28th, on a 3-year sentence which we all had expected would be probation according to plea negotiations. He was convicted of violating sanctions during the 1990s by sending money to family members in Iraq when he heard of their dire suffering: we are calling it a “Crime of Compassion.”
Here in Columbia we have seen an outpouring of letters, favorable editorials, public meetings, celebratory dinners, all in tribute to Shakir’s leadership among us, in baffled outrage at the draconian sentence, and with compassion for his stellar family. I am part of a group working with a pro bono attorney who filed a 5-inch-thick set of documents officially petitioning President Obama for executive clemency to commute Dr. Hamoodi’s sentence. I have studied and summarized 60 letters attesting to Shakir’s character and contributions (and could copy you on request). There were even more letters from Iraqis whose family members’ lives were saved due to his selfless act, on which he kept meticulous records. Click here to read David’s August 2012 post on this blog regarding Dr. Hamoodi’s case.
Now, in the next two weeks, we have a window of opportunity to try to get the President’s attention to act on humanitarian grounds to mitigate this injustice which we feel has been done. I’ve been in personal communication with a staff member of now-reelected Missouri senator, Claire McCaskill, to set up a meeting with her to urge her to personally intercede with the President.
Here’s where you can help:
First, read a quick summary of the case and circumstances at the website established by Shakir’s eldest son: www.helphamoodi.org. There is a link there to add your name to the nearly 7,000 others asking the President for clemency.
But we know that this alone — and even the excellent set of documents which we’ve conveyed to “The Pardon Attorney” at the White House, plus two Senators’ staffers — will not suffice to get positive action. NOW: We need a flood of phone calls, faxes, messages on Senatorial websites, and office visits to show our senators that this is worthy of their attention, and invite (urge, demand, plead) that they bring this to Obama’s awareness. Senators listen to constituents: YOU.
If you have only 5 minutes or fewer, I urge you to pick up the phone and call McCaskill if you’re in Missouri, Durbin if you’re in Illinois, and Gillibrand if you’re in New York or anywhere else in the country*. Tell them that you’ve become aware of a situation crying out for Executive Clemency, and urge the Senator to intervene on behalf of justice and human decency. You can offer weblink resources if you wish (“helphamoodi” is an easy one to remember); you can ask for a report back as to what the staffer finds. Phone numbers are at the end of this memo.
Another means of contact is the official website for each Senator. I have found that constituents’ comments there get more response than e-mails, and are far more effective than just adding yet another name to a petition (though that’s important too, to keep building the numbers); I urge you to send letters by FAX as well. If you are able, I recommend a visit to your local Senatorial office, possibly with a delegation of 2 or 3 others with this concern.
I mentioned “the next two weeks” because the Christmas-New Year period is one in which pardons and commutations are traditionally given (though possible at any time). This may be our best opportunity until next year at this time, and we are determined to not let Shakir suffer more time locked away from family, if humanly possible.
I also welcome you sharing this information with a personal note on any of your social media, and announcing in your Friends Meeting or elsewhere. Thank you for reading and considering this. I commend it to your heart.
In peace and love,
*We mention Senator Gillibrand because we learned that a staffer in her NYC office saw Glen Greenwald’s article about Shakir in The Guardian, and has possibly brought it to her attention. We now have a direct contact with Gillibrand’s office, and are urging her to work with Claire to present this concern to the President. You could show concern beyond her direct constituency by urging her favorable action.
There was also excellent coverage in Newsweek’s online journal.
I. Senatorial office telephones
Sen. Claire McCaskill:
Washington, DC Telephone 202-224-6154
Columbia, MO 573-442-7130
St. Louis, MO 314-367-1364
Sen. Dick Durbin:
Washington, DC Telephone 202-224-2152
Chicago, IL 312-353-4952
Carbondale, IL 618-351-1122
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand:
Washington, DC Telephone 202-224-4451
II. Senatorial fax numbers
McCaskill: Washington, DC 202-228-6326
Columbia, MO 573-442-7140
St. Louis, MO 314-361-8649
Durbin: Washington, DC 202-228-0400
Chicago, IL 312-353-0150
Carbondale, IL 618-351-1124
Gillibrand: Washington, DC 202-228-0282
III. Senatorial websites for comments: