COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - A Columbia man who will begin serving a three-year sentence in federal prison Tuesday for sending money to his relatives in Iraq in defiance of U.S. sanctions said he had no regrets about his actions.
Shakir Hamoodi, an Iraqi-American, was sentenced in May for sending more than $200,000 to family, friends and charities in Iraq while sanctions were in place between 1991 and 2003. He said his family needed the money for health care, and investigators found no proof that Hamoodi was aiding the Iraqi government, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/oQpVLx ).
"I'm convinced that if I had done nothing, I would be ashamed for the rest of my life," said Hamoodi, who will serve his sentence in a low-security camp at the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan.
Hamoodi was allowed to stay out of prison until the end of this month so he could observe Ramadan.
Supporters have raised $7,000 and established a trust fund to help Hamoodi's wife and children while he is in prison, said Kit Salter, a family friend.
Hamoodi was concerned that his conviction would hurt business at his grocery store, World Harvest Foods, which is the family's primary source of income.
But this summer, "the community has shown that they really need the store and are willing to support it and the family," Hamoodi said.
Maureen Dickmann, pastor of Rock Bridge Christian Church, said she believes many people understand that Hamoodi broke the law but believe they would have done the same if their families needed help.
"I know he is not a felon, and that's why a lot of people come out to events like this to support him," she said at a potluck dinner in his honor Wednesday at the church. About 90 people attended.
The store will remain open because Tawfiq Thabit, 61, a former Iraqi auto parts businessman will help manage it.
Thabit's knowledge of food and his connections will help him work with World Harvest's suppliers, who are located around the world.
"I read about Hamoodi's situation and told him I could volunteer at the shop," Thabit said. "I insisted I volunteer, but he insisted he pay me. We reached an agreement where I volunteer half the time and I am paid the other half."
Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com