Cleveland Islamic Center leader tied to terrorists to leave United States for Qatar ending deportation case
January 5, 2006
Ohio Imam Tied to Terrorists to Leave U.S.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
DETROIT — A Cleveland imam convicted of hiding terrorist ties has agreed to leave the United States, ending his deportation case, his attorney and government officials said Thursday.
The agreement allows Fawaz Damra to resettle in Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Egypt or the Palestinian territories, said Greg Gagne, a spokesman for the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review.
A judge has approved the agreement with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which will decide his destination.
Damra is still in federal custody, said Robert Birach, a Detroit lawyer who negotiated for him. He declined to discuss more details.
Damra, spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of Cleveland, is Palestinian-born. He was convicted in 2004 of concealing ties to alleged terrorist groups when he applied for U.S. citizenship in 1994. He served two months in prison and lost his U.S. citizenship.
Damra's naturalization fraud conviction wasn't enough to warrant deportation because he has legally lived in the United States for five years. Immigration officials sought to remove him on charges that he raised funds for terrorist organizations.
In Damra's 2004 trial, prosecutors showed video footage of him and other Islamic leaders raising money for an arm of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which since 1989 has been listed by the State Department as a terrorist group.
Haider Alawan, a Damra supporter and member of the Islamic Center of Cleveland's council of elders, said Damra could not afford to fight his case any further.
"He's resolved to the fact that you'd have to have unlimited resources to prove his innocence," Alawan said. "How far can you go without putting the family in a bad situation?"
Damra has a wife and three American-born daughters.