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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

The Imam of Cleveland arrested, indicted

In Cleveland, OHIO, U.S.A.

photo from The Cleveland Plain Dealer
AP/Yahoo News via LGF: CLEVELAND - A prominent Islamic clergyman was arrested Tuesday on charges he concealed his links to anti-Israel terrorist groups when he applied for U.S. citizenship a decade ago, officials said.

Imam Fawaz Mohammed Damrah, who leads the Islamic Center of Cleveland, Ohio's largest mosque, withheld information on his membership or affiliation with several groups, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, U.S. Attorney Gregory White said.

White would not specify the nature of Damrah's involvement in the groups but said such allegations often involve fund-raising. The indictment did not accuse Damrah, a Palestinian, of committing any terrorist acts.

"We are strictly dealing with issues, activities and incidents prior to his becoming a naturalized citizen and what he was required to disclose" to gain citizenship, White said. Damrah became a citizen in 1994.

Damrah, 41, was charged with obtaining U.S. citizenship by providing false information. If convicted, he could lose his citizenship and face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

He pleaded innocent and was released on $160,000 bail for a trial Feb. 23. Damrah's only comments in court were brief responses to routine questions.

Damrah represented the Islamic community at interfaith gatherings in Cleveland after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

At the time, local TV stations broadcast a videotape from a Chicago gathering 10 years earlier showing him making anti-Jewish comments in a speech. He called for rifles to be directed at Jewish people, referring to them as "the sons of monkeys and pigs."

He apologized for the remarks, saying they were made before he had any interaction with Jews and Christians. But a local community college replaced him in 2001 as the teacher of a course on Islam.
According to LGF, a report in February of last year in the Cleveland Plain Dealer noted the Damrah had been identified as an "unindicted co-conspirator" in the case of Sam al-Arian. Unindicted no longer.

More on Damrah from the United Church News, two years ago -- the article includes "ways to reach out to the Muslim community," such as "Invite the local imam to a) participate in an interfaith service; b) serve on a steering committe or participate in a community event; or c) participate in a religious fact-finding delegation." It also cheerfully notes that "Muslim mosques are springing up in cities and suburbs all across America," up 42% in the years 1990-2000.

Also see this from last year, at Blogcritics.org, detailing the activities of Unindicted Co-conspirator One vis-a-vis al-Arian.