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Posted February 11, 2005 by publisher in Cuba Human Rights

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Associated Press

An administrative law judge fined a Michigan couple $5,250 for traveling to Cuba in 2001.

The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control had asked Administrative Law Judge Irwin Schroeder to fine Michael and Andrea McCarthy $9,750.

The McCarthys, of Port Huron, went to Cuba through Canada in April 2001. They are devout Catholics who considered the trip a missionary effort as well as a vacation. They brought medicine to a group of nuns in Havana, as they had done on similar trips to Mexico and Haiti, and participated in religious services.

“Here are five thousand reasons to repeal the ban on travel by Americans to Cuba,” Sarah Stephens, an advocate for the couple from the Center for International Policy, which opposes the Cuba travel ban, said in a written statement.

“When the Bush Administration fines missionaries for bringing medicine to a convent, it is waving ‘bye-bye’ to moral values.”

A message was left Thursday evening seeking comment from OFAC, but officials have said in the past that the office does not comment on fines for specific cases.

At a Dec. 6, 2004 hearing in front of Schroeder, Michael McCarthy testified that he had brought samplus of various medicines he accumulated through his job as a physician’s assistant on the trip with him.

However, McCarthy was imprecise about the amount of time he spent on medicine and treatment during the trip, which cost the couple $1,600. In addition, there was no testimony that his wife, a registered nurse, spent any time supplying medicine during the trip, Schroeder said in his ruling issued Monday.

Schroeder said he took into account a number of factors in deciding the amount of the fine, including the humanitarian and religious intentions of the trip and the couple’s limited ability to pay a substantial civil penalty.

The U.S. government learned about the trip when the McCarthys told an officer at the border between Canada and Michigan that they had been to Cuba.

The McCarthys could have applied for a license to visit Cuba for humanitarian reasons. OFAC issues thousands of licenses each year to government officials, researchers, families visiting Cuban relatives, religious groups and others.

But the McCarthys’ attorney, Kurt Berggren, said at the time that the couple knew others who had traveled to Cuba and believed the government wouldn’t enforce its travel rules.

A message seeking comment was left Thursday night at Berggren’s Ann Arbor office.

The McCarthys were offered a settlement of $1,000 each but refused because they wanted to challenge the law in a hearing. Michael McCarthy has said in the past that the couple believes strongly that their religion requires them to help make peace with countries such as Cuba.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on February 11, 2005 by waldo with 264 total posts

    Incredible, how intransigently ugly and inhumane can some humans be. God help them!

  2. Follow up post #2 added on February 11, 2005 by YoungCuban with 409 total posts

    You know what seems very interesting to me?

    The fact that the US would allow for someone to (supposivly) break the law and get away with it as long as they pay?

    So they mean to tell me if I was to travel to Cuba and the US finds out,all I have to do is pay?

    What about if I kill someone,can I pay for my freedom?

    Because the way I see it, by not allowing those who truly mean to help the Cuban people with much needed items as medicines etc. is in fact committing murder to a certain extent,the US is killing any and all chances for Cuba/US interests!

    Another thing that has always been funny to me,and not to mention out right stupid as hell is the fact that the US says it ISNT illegal to travel to Cuba,just illegal to spend funds in Cuba???

    Now what kind of dope head thought up that law?!?!

    I think former Washington Mayor Marion Berry has a lot of friends sharing his crack pipe with him!

    US government,Idiots or Druggies? Probably both!

    Please! Start making some sense you morons!

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