Kirsty Gathergood is prepared to risk a prison sentence by taking medicine to Iraqi children, writes Richard Abbott.

The 24-year-old student from Bartlemas Close, Oxford, says her act of "civil disobedience" is a political statement against Iraq's regime. She will break strict economic sanctions when she flies out with medicine and toys today, which she hopes to give to children in hospitals.

But she risks being punished by United Nations law, which stops anyone taking medicine into Iraq without an export licence. She said: "The sanctions are illegal and immoral. I've seen images on TV about what effects they are having on people there and that's why I've decided to do something.

"These are ordinary people who have been victimised for no reason and that is wrong. I am breaking the sanctions as an act of civil disobedience to a policy which kills thousands of children every month." Kirsty, who is studying criminology at Portsmouth University, flies out from Heathrow today with two other volunteers from the Oxford-based campaigning group Voices in the Wilderness.

She will fly to Amman in neighbouring Jordan before driving 600 miles to Baghdad.

Voices has been running mercy trips to Iraq for more than two years.

No-one has been charged, but two volunteers had their medicine seized and were arrested in March 1998.

"Certain goods like medicines need to be licensed. They need to check which category they fall into. It depends which is more important to her whether she is really making a humanitarian trip or trying to make a political statement."