Former "moderate" Cleveland imam deported
Fawaz Damra, the longtime local imam convicted of lying about his links to terrorist groups, was deported to the West Bank Thursday morning, immigration officials said.
"It happened Thursday morning about 4 or 5 a.m.," said Tim Counts, a spokesman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "He was flown into Jordan and from there crossed the bridge into the Palenstinian Territories."
Damra had been locked up in a Michigan jail for more than year as immigration officials searched for a country willing to take Damra. The former spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of Cleveland agreed to be deported after a trial and conviction where he was linked to terrorist groups.
Damra, 46, was born in the West Bank and came to the United States in the 1980s. In 2004, he was convicted of lying on his citizenship application because he did not disclose links to terrorist organizations. He served two months in prison and two months of house arrest and was stripped of his citizenship.
During their investigation, federal officials obtained a 1991 video of Damra at a Muslim gathering in Cleveland where he disparaged Jews in Arabic as "pigs and monkeys" and raised money for the killing of Jews by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Damra's arrest and the images on the videotape shocked many in the region, who viewed him as a voice of moderate, mainstream Islam. He was often seen at public events with politicians and leaders from other faiths until the tape surfaced. While Damra's conviction was not specifically tied to terrorism, government attorneys seek to deport him because they consider him a national security threat.
Damra was arrested outside his Strongsville home in November 2005. He agreed in January 2006 to be deported, on the eve of his deportation hearing when the government planned to present more evidence of his ties to terrorist organizations.
After being denied entry to Canada, he agreed to be sent to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Egypt or the Palestinian territories.