A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction of Fawaz Damra, a decision that will prompt federal prosecutors to begin deportation proceedings against the imam of Ohio’s largest mosque.
The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied all of Damra’s claims in a 17-page opinion released late Tuesday. Damra, 43, of Strongsville, was convicted in June of lying on his immigration form and during an interview in 1993.
He failed to mention his work with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which opposes Israel’s existence, and the Alkifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., where the imam knew other radicals. He came to the Islamic Center of Greater Cleveland in 1991.
U.S. District Judge James Gwin sentenced him to two months in prison and four months in home detention. He also stripped Damra’s citizenship but told prosecutors they could not begin deportation proceedings until after the appellate ruling.
Once in federal immigration court, it could be two or three years before the Palestinian-born Damra is forced from the country….
Damra’s attorneys said their client was never a member of the Islamic Jihad. They said that prosecutors’ use of “affiliation” was ambiguous. His attorneys also said he never persecuted anyone.
Citing videotapes played at the trial in which Damra wailed about the need to give money to kill Jews, the unanimous three-judge panel disagreed….
The court also upheld the use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act involving secretly taped calls Damra made to Sami Al-Arian, who prosecutors say is a leader in the Islamic Jihad. The calls concerned Damra’s attempts to launder money with the help of a former mosque leader, Dr. Azzam Ahmed, for Al-Arian, according to court records….