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Cleveland Imam in the Center of Terror Probes

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The saga of the duplicitous Cleveland imam continues. After imam Fawaz Damra of the Islamic Center of Cleveland was charged with federal terror-related crimes on Tuesday morning, his mosque voted to retain him Tuesday night:

    But the meeting was rancorous, according to sources, and some mosque members are urging their leadership to find a way to remove Damra soon.

    “I believe I speak for the educated, silent majority when I say it’s time to ask Imam Damra to re sign,” said Walid Dardir, who de scribes Damra as a friend and mentor.

    Dardir, the contracting manager for Cuyahoga County, said Damra’s increasing notoriety is hurting all Arab-Americans.

    “It’s not about whether he’s right or wrong,” he said. “It’s about moving forward, for the betterment of our community. It’s time to ask him to resign.” [Cleveland.com]

Given all he has dragged them through, this seems logical to me. But it also IS about whether he is right or wrong, and any objected look at the evidence would seem to indicate WRONG.

    Arab-American groups that had stood with Damra kept a wider distance Tuesday.

    The local American Arab Anti Discrimination Committee issued a statement saying only: “We really do not know the exact details of what happened. We only hope that due process will be followed.”

That sounds like washing their hands and feet of him.

Two new stories in the Cleveland Plain Dealer today – Amanda Garrett:

    Far beyond the shattered glass and bloody bodies, across a desert and vast ocean, it started with a Cleveland dollar.

    ….Federal investigators say the Cleveland money was mixed with donations from across the country and ultimately ended up in Israel, where it paid for suicide bombers who blew up themselves and scores of Jews on buses, on streets and in cafes.

    The charity, it turned out, was merely a front for Hamas, the largest of the Palestinian terror groups, investigators said, and the widows and orphans were the families of suicide bombers.

    ….it might be his connection to three of the most significant terror-funding investigations in the United States that most interests the government, said Tally Aharony, an analyst with the Investigative Project, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

    “Damra is a known fund-raiser in these circles, and they probably want to know what he knows,” Aharony said.

    Damra is connected directly to the cases of Sami Al-Arian in Florida and the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development in Texas, and indirectly to a third, the Safa Group in Virginia, because it connects Al-Arian to the Holy Land Foundation.

    Investigators say that Al-Arian is the North American chief of Islamic Palestinian Jihad and that the Holy Land Foundation is a front for Hamas. The Safa Group has helped both, investigators said, funneling more than $50 million out of the country for unknown purposes.

    Damra’s connection to the Holy Land Foundation is clear: The FBI and the foundation’s leader say Damra helped Holy Land raise money at his mosque as recently as spring 2001

    ….Damra’s connection to Al-Arian is clear, too. A 1991 videotape shows him raising money for an Al-Arian charity that Damra says represents the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

    Donors at that function clearly knew the purpose – Damra was shouting, asking who in the crowd would give money to help kill Jews. Terror analysts say his involvement with Al-Arian’s organization continued after the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was designated a terrorist organization.

    Their belief is rooted in last year’s indictment of Al-Arian, which cites the video and says the man on the tape is an unindicted co-conspirator connected to the case as recently as 2001.

    A terrorist analyst with the Investigative Project says that based on the similarities, it appears that Damra is the unindicted co-conspirator. Among other things, the co-conspirator revealed to investigators another way terrorists raise money in this country – exploiting the federal tax system.

    On wiretaps, the co-conspirator offered to help Al-Arian launder about $25,000 in cash he collected at a Chicago fund-raiser. If Al-Arian would send him some of the money, the co-conspirator said, he would arrange for wealthy people to recycle it as donations to Al-Arian’s group.

The funders are the enablers of terror, and they are just as responsible for innocent deaths as trigger-men and suicide bombers: no money, no terror.

John Caniglia:

    Damra is the thread that links FBI agent Michael Maltbie, lawyer Joseph McGinness and U.S. District Judge James Gwin in Cleveland’s first major case involving terrorism.

    ….Maltbie, whom agents describe as a bright, hard-working supervisor, was involved in the handling of a search warrant for Zacarias Moussaoui, the suspected 20th hijacker on Sept. 11. Maltbie’s actions in part prompted an agent in the Minneapolis field office to say the agency – and supervisors like him – botched the case a month before the attacks.

    McGinness is known for his tireless defense of men accused of helping the Nazis during World War II. He is so passionate that he once continued fighting the U.S. Justice Department after his client was dead and buried and deportation was no longer an issue. He also has relied on an expert who claims the gas pumped into showers at the Auschwitz death camp was nothing more than a disinfectant.

    Gwin has gained notice as a judge who doles out some of the toughest sentences on the federal bench. He once sentenced a Canton man to 30 years in prison for mail fraud. He also braved a snowstorm to open a trial in Ohio’s super-maximum prison, where the state’s worst killers and rapists watched him from behind bars.

    ….One source said Maltbie struggled in his first days in Cleveland, but he has been regarded as a top supervisor in one of the bureau’s most closely watched units.

    “He has done a good job since he has been here,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Bakeman, who took Damra’s case to the grand jury. “He hasn’t hindered anything that we’ve done. I don’t know about what happened in the past, but it isn’t a concern of mine. ”

    During the Damra investigation, Maltbie – who speaks Arabic – has supervised agent Tim Riley, who is considered by many a rising star in the Cleve land FBI.

    ….McGinness has developed a deep-seated passion for fighting the government, partly out of distrust and partly because he believes it goes after people who lack the resources to fight back.

    One day after McGinness represented Damra in court, the attorney’s nemesis, the U.S. Justice Department, released a statement saying one of his clients had been deported for helping the Nazis in Lithuania.

    ….McGinness, 61, of Shaker Heights, has represented eight men in suspected-Nazi cases. He has claimed the government has gone after minor figures, often simple men forced into the Nazis’ service.

    In 1995, he defeated the government in its case against George Lindert of Canfield, who was able to maintain his citizenship. But three of his clients have left the country after prosecutors sought deportation. Four cases are pending.

    ….Gwin’s control on the bench is apparent quickly.

    Lawyers said the former Stark County Common Pleas judge has delivered some of the toughest sentences on the federal bench since President Clinton appointed him in 1997.

    ….In June 2001, he ordered David Mayle, then 53, to 30 years in prison for stealing $5,000 in Social Security checks from a friend who disappeared. The charge – mail fraud – usually nets a person about 18 months.

    Gwin said he based the sentence on two days of testimony concerning evidence that Mayle killed three men from Ohio and Florida and might have killed one more, even though Mayle has never been convicted of the slayings.

Given that attitude, if Damra is convicted of the relatively minor charge of lying on his citizenship forms about his past ties to terror groups, the seriousness of the consequences of his alleged fund raising does not bode well for the imam of hate.

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