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Last Updated: Monday, 11 August, 2003, 18:39 GMT 19:39 UK
Human shield fined over sanctions
Faith Fippinger
Miss Fippinger says she is prepared for prison
A retired US teacher who served as a human shield in Iraq has been told she faces fines of $10,000 by the US Government.

The US Department of the Treasury is fining Faith Fippinger because it says she broke US sanctions prohibiting citizens from engaging in "commercial, financial or trade transactions" after she entered Iraq in February.

When the 62-year-old returned on 4 May she was greeted by a letter warning that if she did not pay the amount, she faced up to 12 years' imprisonment or a lengthier legal battle that could run to over $1m in costs.

Miss Fippinger was among about 300 human shields from 30 countries - including 20 from the US - who made the journey to Iraq in an attempt to discourage bombing by coalition forces.

The former high school teacher from Sarasota, Florida, admitted spending about $200 while in Iraq, mainly on food and water.

Miss Fippinger told BBC News Online she had felt obligated to travel there after hearing US authorities were drawing up lucrative reconstruction contracts with US suppliers months before bombing had begun.

"I have written back to (the Treasury) to say if it comes to fines or imprisonment I'm not willing to contribute any money to the US Government so it can continue to build its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

"I don't want to go to prison, but I am prepared for it," she said.


Miss Fippinger said she had witnessed the first volley of cruise missiles heading towards Baghdad after the US attacks began on 20 March.

"The bombs would start at 0500, missiles would fly over the house we were staying in and I just thought, is it ever going to stop? It was terrifying."

"It was more sadness than fear that I felt when I watched the destruction," she said.

Human shields are welcomed in Baghdad
Crowds of supporters greeted the shields from Rome to Baghdad
As well as breaking trade embargo rules, Miss Fippinger has also been accused by the US Treasury of "providing services" to the former-Iraqi regime by acting as a human shield.

She stands to lose her retirement pay check, social security check and possessions to pay for the fine if authorities go ahead and push for the fine to be paid, officials told the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

"She was (in Iraq) in violation of US sanctions," said Taylor Griffin, a Treasury Department spokesman.

"That's what happens."

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