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Former head of Iraqi Red Crescent sues VA over Bay Pines dismissal

TAMPA — A Largo doctor who took a leave to return to his native Iraq and eventually ran the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization is suing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs over his dismissal from the Bay Pines VA Medical Center .

Dr. Said Hakki filed the complaint Monday in U.S. District Court in Tampa, alleging the VA fired him at the direction of the U.S. State Department. The suit offers this chronology:

Once a senior medical adviser to Saddam Hussein, Hakki fled Iraq in 1983 after the regime killed his friend, the health minister. Hakki went to work as a staff urologist at Bay Pines in 1986.

In 2003, the Pentagon asked Hakki to help rebuild Iraq's health care system and government. About a year later, he became president of the Red Crescent in Iraq.

During that time, the VA granted him a leave without pay from Bay Pines and extended the leave from time to time.

In early 2008, the Iraqi government tried to take over the Red Crescent and brought "fraudulent and false criminal charges" against Hakki. Hakki contested the charges, which were dropped.

After Hakki asked for another extension in July 2008, the VA, acting on orders from the State Department, told him to return to Bay Pines within days. Hakki wanted to stay in Iraq and clear his name. A protracted exchange of letters, proposals for his departure and grievances followed. He was dismissed in November.

In firing Hakki, the VA acted arbitrarily, abused its discretion, ignored its procedures and lacked evidence, his lawsuit contends. It asks the court to force the VA to reverse its actions and not subject him to further discipline.

A VA spokeswoman in Washington on Tuesday night referred questions about the suit to the Justice Department.

Last year, Hakki sued the Washington Post in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court. That suit alleged the newspaper defamed him in a 2008 article implying he was corrupt and had obtained his Red Crescent job partly because of contributions to Republican candidates and organizations. The case was moved to federal court, where it is pending.

Former head of Iraqi Red Crescent sues VA over Bay Pines dismissal 10/04/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 6:30pm]
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