Search of Damra’s home invalidated

U.S. District Court Judge James Gwin has just invalidated a search conducted during an FBI raid on Fawaz Damra’s home, during which he was arrested.

A terrorist group’s manifesto and other items were taken in an illegal search of an Islamic cleric’s home and cannot be used at his trial on accusations that he concealed ties to terrorist organizations, a judge has ruled.

FBI agents searched the home [of Fawaz Mohammed Damra] after the Palestinian-born imam was arrested there. Agents seized a computer, copies of sermons and political speeches, the manifesto of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and stacks of financial records.

Damra’s wife, Nasreen, was instructed to go to the basement during the arrest, apparently because she was upset, and the “uninvited lingering on the premises” by the agents after the arrest meant the search was unreasonable and therefore illegal, Gwin ruled.

Damra, leader of the Islamic Center of Cleveland, has pleaded innocent to a charge of obtaining U.S. citizenship in 1994 by providing false information. He is accused of having connections with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other groups and not revealing them when he applied for citizenship.

So far it looks like we’ve either got a bunch of FBI agents who botched a key anti-terror investigation, or a judge who’s stretching the Fourth Amendment all on his own to protect a past (and possibly present) terrorist sympathizer. The trial starts on Tuesday. I’ll be watching closely.
FYI, here’s the indictment.

UPDATE: On a positive note, Judge Gwin has denied a defense motion to exclude wiretap evidence against Damra that turned up in the federal investigation of Sami Al-Arian.

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