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sorry to bother by Julie V
This is a draft to the US embassy in Qatar. See what you think and please tell me!

Dear Mr. Ponce,

Thank you for the time you were able to spend with Margaret and me yesterday morning. I apologize if we took you by surprise with our concerns and requests. There are probably better ways to approach our government in asking for help but our family is quite at the end of our patience and our concern for Johnís well-being is growing daily. In spite of the many times we have heard from the US Embassy that it supports the fairness of Qatarís charges, trial, and condemnation of John, you must look closely at the scale between what he attempted to do and the volume of punishment that he was handed. Were he a danger to others or committed multiple crimes, even his family would have to agree somewhat with the outcome, but this is a good American man that tried to make a few bucks illegally and was punished far beyond a reasonable extent because he did it in a country that feels great power in having a citizen from the United States behind bars. Four years later there is still no damage to the state of Qatar.

Does it not concern you that there is a claim of espionage against this man with no evidence and that he will spend the rest of his life in a dirt hole 7000 miles from his family? This is our brother, father, son, cousin; this man made a mistake, he did not hurt anyone. You have stated repeatedly that the trial was followed closely by the embassy and there was nothing out of context; how can this be true when the hearings were closed and secret to even Johnís closest allies, his family. To this day we have yet to see any ďevidenceĒ and we believe that he was prosecuted mostly out of spite.

John is a 54 year old man in his 4th year of imprisonment in the middle of a desert in Qatar. Two of his three children have been fortunate enough to be able to visit him for short periods of time each year. The third child, Thomas, has not seen his father since his arrest in August 2005. John knows that his children have no income, their mother is ill, estranged from them, and unable to provide income or parenting. When his mail is held up for six months at a time he is unable to offer simple words of comfort that his children so desperately need or a few words of advice that a child would benefit from. John being the only English speaking Westerner in the prison, he is immersed in a completely foreign atmosphere, absolutely no support system to help him combat loneliness, fear, and the unfamiliar. John is not able to practice a Christian religion properly, there are no church services, no celebration of our religious holidays, no communion, confession, comfort and guidance of a priest and church. He is surrounded by men with whom he has nothing in common, work ethics, family values, religious beliefs; he is isolated. Our State Department simply must make the move to work with Qatar in transferring John to the States.

You suggest that we submit our package of letters to the Qatari officials on an annual base and that most Westerners are released after serving only half of their sentence. Half of life? Is that a joke? Of course, we will continue with the alternate avenues, letters asking for a pardon, asking our congressmen to help and support, increasing media attention, etc. but these are extremely slow and probably ineffective methods of gaining Johnís freedom for a crime that he has more than paid for.

Our Qatari attorney, Mr. Majdalany, has convinced us that Qatar will likely transfer John to the United States without a permanent prisoner transfer treaty as long as there is assurance from our government in the form of a letter, that John will serve his life sentence in the US. This is a condition that John and his family accept. Johnís case is unique as he is the only American serving a life sentence in Qatar. It is ridiculous to attempt to set up a treaty for future cases at the expense of this man as John will not survive the years of government red tape. A treaty, if desired by our government, must be independent of this manís transfer. We ask that the State Department write this letter for us as a humanitarian gesture.

Sincerely yours,

Julie Van Woy and family of John Downs


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