- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2006

KERHONKSON, N.Y. (AP) — Before the bombs fell on Baghdad, Judith Karpova went there to put herself in harm’s way, hoping to prevent attacks on a population that already was suffering.

The activist was among dozens of “human shields” who poured into Iraq as the U.S.-led offensive loomed in early 2003, but she left before the war began.

After she returned to the United States, Miss Karpova was fined $6,700 by the Treasury Department for violating U.S. economic sanctions. Fines up to $8,000 also were levied against three other human shields.

None is paying up quietly, and Miss Karpova, 61, is disputing in a federal appeals court charges that she illegally exported services to Iraq as a shield.

“They say it’s an export — export — of services to Iraq, as if a human being is a commodity that can be shipped like light bulbs,” the Hudson Valley woman said.

Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said in an e-mail that anyone who violates U.S. sanctions faces civil or criminal penalties. Asked why only four shields were fined, Miss Millerwise noted that “there are instances where U.S. persons skirt the sanctions without the knowledge of officials.”

Paying her own way, Miss Karpova arrived in Amman, Jordan, on Feb. 17, 2003, and took an Iraqi-sponsored bus trip to Baghdad with a few dozen other human shields.

She spent five days at an oil refinery with another shield, Faith Fippinger.

The shields stationed themselves at potential air strike targets in Iraq. U.S. officials warned them that there was no way to guarantee their safety and critics accused them of being pawns of Saddam Hussein.

But 10 days before the military campaign began, Miss Karpova left Iraq. She cited several reasons, including not wanting to upset a brother recuperating from a stroke and fear for her life.

When she got home, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control informed her that she was not licensed to engage in “travel transactions” in Iraq and later fined her $6,700.

Miss Karpova sued, arguing that her constitutional rights to free speech and travel were being violated. She also disputes that she provided an economic service for Iraq.

A federal judge in October granted a government motion to dismiss Miss Karpova’s complaint.

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