Message Board

notes by Julie V
Thank you for the comments and letters--you all are wonderful! Good thing Margaret and I have Rose feet--we are able to tape many papers to the bottoms and the guards don't look there!Can't wait to see John Wesley this morning! We will have lots of hugs and much to talk about!

Majdalany, our Qatari attorney, said to write the letter to the Ambassador, send it to him (Maj),he will check it and deliver it with his own cover letter. Wow! We have to take him some cookies! Don Beenham made his comments on the letter, powerful words, I will take it to John Wesley this am since Maj won't be in his office until Sunday am, we have a little time for revisions. Here are Don's comments:

Thank you for sharing this with me. My thoughts for what they might be worth. I believe your approach needs to be much more aggressive. It could be time to take the gloves off. The US State Dept just secured the release of that Iranian-American journalist convicted of spying and imprisoned. In her case, she DID do something illegal, got CAUGHT with sensitive documents, misrepresented herself as a journalist when her credentials expired years ago, etc. etc.. FAR worse than what John did. If the US can get HER out, they should be able to get John out. Maybe it’s time for more media blitz using that as precedent. Placard weaving protesters in front of State Dept etc… Time to read them their own Constitution about equality and equal rights etc…….it is clearly all politics and it smells….perhaps time to make more stink……kid gloves will not do the trick…..remember the old adage…Only the squeaky wheel gets oiled!! Carollyne is in full agreement with a tougher approach. Here are some specific comments in red below about the letter, not necessarily as revised text but also thoughts on issues raised by the letter. I know how traumatic this must be for everyone but it may be time to drop the pleasantries and say “No more Mr Nice Guy”. I know it sounds crude but I see no other way to increase your chances of getting John released. All I can say is that if it was my father wrongly imprisoned, I’d stick so many burrs under so many pants and skirts, people would react just to make the ‘noise’ go away……straight-talking letters to sitting officials that if they don’t assist, there will be a campaign organized to thwart their re-election!!! Etc etc ……..and whether it’s chaining myself on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, superglue to the steps of the Capitol, posters on every corner and public building…..enough to get arrested, to cause media attention, protests outside major network stations….enlist the quiet majority……..more and more riled up unemployed to take on a cause….get madder than hell….tip off media to ‘events’…keep emailing CNN etc…….newspapers…..organize national campaigns…print bumper stickers with ‘inflammatory’ messages…..ANYTHING (that doesn’t hurt an innocent person) to get full scale attention………fill all those junk mail return prepaid envelopes with dramatic messages ….the list goes on…it can’t be a part-time effort and I also realize the enormous burden such would bear upon you all. Each of us has to answer to our own conscience

May God be with you.

Don & Carollyne

-----Original Message-----
From: John and Julie Van Woy []
Sent: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 9:09 PM
To:; 'John Van Woy'; 'Nick Downs'; 'Margaret Downs';; 'Don Beenham'; 'Joe Benton'
Subject: a little advice please!

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. We feel we have run out of the ‘diplomatic’ channels to press for assistance particularly now that there is a clear precedent with respect to our Government’s efforts to secure the release of a US citizen from Iranian custody under a set of circumstances far more serious and substantive than those attributable to John’s situation. Our Founding Fathers made important declarations in our Constitution about the equality and rights of ALL American citizens….unalienable rights regardless of the ‘politics’. 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 John’s well-being is growing daily. In spite of the many times we have heard from the US Embassy that it supports the fairness of Qatar’s charges, trial, and condemnation of John, this seems contrary to the claims by John’s legal representatives that he was DENIED a fair trial. 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 (inappropriately but with no real intent to follow through) 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. (What about the Qatari terrorist that was released from Guantanamo and handed back to Qatar ???????..............How does the State Dept reconcile such clearly discriminatory practices for REAL crimes versus John’s inept attempts to thumb his nose with actions clearly not a threat to anyone nor the State of Qatar. Four years later there is still no damage to the state of Qatar. And there never will be because the alleged consequences put forward by Al-Attiyah at the trial from what I have read, were clearly fabricated and out of all believable proportion. (Note: However I sense there is more to this than meets the eye)

It is unconscionable and an affront to the Constitution of the United States that the US Government will allow fabricated evidence against ANY of its citizens and stand by while foreign governments torture and allow them to rot in hell holes of dictatorships where freedom remains in bondage. I thought America went to war in Iraq and elsewhere based on “Freedom”……was this sincere or just a pretense to exercise military might for the oil lobby. The Native American had an opinion about “white man who speaks with forked tongue”……..but we didn’t realize until today that this could also describe the entire government of this country. Is John just ‘collateral damage’ in the geopolitics of oil and weaponry because if this had happened in Iran, he would be home by now and not a casualty of politics. 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 this would seem NOT to be supportable under a thorough investigation……may be time for a Congressional investigation into the incarceration of Americans abroad and have the State Dept put on the stand to explain their actions. ; how can this be true when the hearings were closed and secret to even John’s closest allies, his family. To this day we have yet to see any “evidence” 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 may be an opening by enlisting the political m ight of the “Christian Right” ….get them to start shaking trees……another denial under the Constitution regarding freedom of religion……………….. Lobby every Rep and Senator with known strong religious convictions…….it’s time to start threatening with the media ….get to any talk show host….hell, even Rush Limbaugh since he likes to take every opportunity to swipe at the Dems…..get him to stir the pot………get going on YouTube and Twitter…… confrontational, raise injustice, scream torture of American citizens…how many are out there abandoned by the government for political ends………create as much S…T as possible and maybe some will stick to the point something will get done just to quiet the embarrassing ‘noise’. You might be amazed what response could be aroused on Twitter…you can get to almost anyone….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…..this is garbage and abdication of responsibility 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 John’s freedom for a crime that he has more than paid for………you might be surprised…… Obama used the internet without which he would not be President today……unleash its power.

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. I understand this ‘acceptance’ but not sure it is the right thing to do with all respect. John’s 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 man’s transfer. We ask that the State Department write this letter for us as a humanitarian gesture. Perhaps time to cause “heat” under the Administration by enlisting those who make a meal out of embarrassing the Obama and the Dems……..caused flack, flack, flack….by any means whatsoever even if you have to make a pact with the political ‘devil’……a human life is at stake and no legal price is too high to pay to save it. Google all the human rights activists, Amnesty International, every organization and individual who champions human rights and freedoms. Old Bush used to trumpet that all the time….the US exists to spread freedom around the world… are these just empty words or do they have teeth……time to find out!!!!!

Sincerely yours,

Julie Van Woy and family of John Downs


Return to Message Board :: Post Message