Remember Fawaz Damra? He’s the leader of the Islamic Center of Cleveland, and has been indicted for allegedly concealing his ties to terrorism on his immigration application papers in 1994. If convicted, he could be sent to prison for five years, be fined $5000, lose his citizenship, and be deported.
Here’s what went down when his trial began yesterday in the U.S. District Court in Akron.
A jury of eight men and four women was selected.
In order to prevent what Judge James S. Gwin considers unfair prejudice, prosecutors have been barred from mentioning Osama bin Laden or his al-Qaeda terror network. Also off-limits: characterizing Damra as a “radical Islamic militant” or as one of many “dangerous global jihadists.” Judge Gwin said he would consider allowing the prosecution to use these terms only if it can prove their relevance. Duh.
Testimony from an FBI agent and an NYPD terrorism expert painted a decidedly unflattering portrait of the supposedly moderate muslim:
Special FBI agent Bradley Beman testified that Damra told him during an October 2003 interview that he was a founder of Afghan Refugee Services, also known as al-Kifah, which means “the struggle” in Arabic. The group supported Afghanistan’s fight against the Soviets, Beman said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Cherie Krigsman told jurors in her opening statement earlier Tuesday in U.S. District Court that Damra concealed ties to ARS and the Islamic Committee for Palestine, groups the government classifies as terrorist organizations.
Beman also said that he questioned Damra about a statement he previously made in a speech that the Islamic Committee for Palestine was an active arm of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Beman said Damra told him that he made the statement only to get the crowd worked up.
Detective Louis Napoli of the New York City office of the Joint Terrorism Task Force testified that Afghan Refugee Services was housed in the same Brooklyn, New York building as the Al-Farouq mosque, where Damra was previously the imam.
The prosecution contends that on his application Damra failed to report his arrest in a group fight with security guards at Kennedy International Airport in 1989. An assault charge against Damra was later dismissed.
Damra’s lawyers admitted that Damra sympathized with and supported terrorist groups, but they said he was not affiliated with them.
You can watch a brief interview where Damra describes himself as a “peaceful, loving man.” Uh … right, I believe ya, Fawaz.