AKRON, Ohio June 17, 2004 “” The Palestinian-born leader of Ohio’s largest mosque was convicted Thursday of lying about his connections to terrorist organizations when he applied for U.S. citizenship.
Fawaz Damra, imam of the Islamic Center of Cleveland, showed no emotion as the verdict was read in federal court.
He could be sentenced to up to five years in prison, stripped of his citizenship and deported for providing false information to become a citizen in 1994.
His attorneys will fight on.
Prosecutors claimed that Damra, 41, concealed ties to Afghan Refugee Services, the Islamic Committee for Palestine and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, groups the government classifies as terrorist organizations.
“We feel this is a victory in the war on terrorism,” prosecutor Cherie Krigsman said.
Prosecutors showed video footage of Damra raising money for an arm of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which has been listed as a major terrorist group by the State Department since 1989.
Jurors also were shown footage in which Damra called Jews “the sons of monkeys and pigs” during a 1991 speech and said “terrorism and terrorism alone is the path to liberation” in a 1989 speech.
“He was the guy that they brought in to raise the money for Islamic Jihad,” Krigsman said after the verdict. “Without the money they could not operate.” …
Many members of Damra’s mosque have continued to support him, voting in March to allow him to continue leading prayers and performing other functions. …
“Unfortunately, I don’t believe justice was served,” said Haider Alawan, a member of the Cleveland mosque’s board of elders and a Damra backer.