Civil Rights:  worker rights, immigration rights, & human rights
                    The Portland Alliance Examines Threats to Liberty & Freedom...

    The 99% Movement, Portland Rising, and the NW Alliance are raising issues, 
     providing information, and supporting alternatives to the corporate press.

Even the corporate press, sometimes reveals the flaws in our system... 

Eroding the Foundation
by the Oregonian Editorial Board
Mehrdad Yasrebi admits that, operating the charitable Child Foundation, he sent cash into Iran to pay for school tuition and other expenses, in apparent violation of the U.S. economic embargo of Iran. The Clackamas engineer also admits that, in an attempt to cover it up, he and an Iranian associate falsified documents to deceive the U.S. government, which is a felony.

But what turned this into a 10-year investigation, involving wiretapping, a raid of the foundation's offices and two secret indictments that Yasrebi still hasn't seen, was the federal government's insistence that Yasrebi was somehow connected to terrorism. But Tuesday, Portland federal Judge Garr King found an utter lack of evidence for any such connection, and sentenced Yasrebi to one year of home confinement, rejecting the government's request for 2 1/2 years in prison.

Terrorism is a serious threat to Americans. But as Judge King suggested, seeing terrorism in places where it isn't can also be a problem, distorting government priorities and threatening the relationship between the U.S. government and the people who live here.

In 1994, Yasrebi, an Iranian refugee with permanent residency status, founded the Child Foundation, providing support to poor children in several countries, including Iran. In 2000, he sent an 86-page inquiry to the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control outlining the foundation's efforts in Iraq and asking about its legality. The agency never responded.

"If they had told him in 2000, 'Stop,' then nothing would ever have happened," says Yasrebi's attorney, David Angeli.

Instead, Yasrebi inquired again in 2001, again with no response. An OFAC internal memo directed employees not to respond, in order not to compromise a possible criminal indictment.

Five years later, Yasrebi fraudulently devised documents to cover the money sent to Iraq. In 2008, the foundation's premises were raided. Last year, he pleaded guilty to one count, the foundation paid fines, and he was sentenced Tuesday -- almost 12 years after his initial, unanswered inquiry to the government.

The government sought jail time, on grounds that $100,000 of the money may have gone to an unsavory Iranian figure. King refused, ruling that the government had provided no evidence of a terror connection. Yasrebi is now separated from the foundation, which has "adopted measures to ensure that our current and future operations are fully compliant with all legal requirements." All the foundation's aid to children in Iran is now in the form of bulk food, legal under the embargo.

The U.S. government had legitimate legal issues in Yasrebi's case, although it seems that it might have been resolved much earlier and with less muscle. But the case still raises concerns that any connection with certain countries or concepts can warp basic legal procedures, immersing them in overkill and secrecy.

Judge King saw that Tuesday. It could have been noticed earlier.