Yesterday we reported that the imam of Cleveland, Fawaz Damra, was unnamed “co-conspirator one” in the federal indictment against University of South Florida engineering professor Sami Amin Al-Arian, and that at least one local supporter claimed the Palestinian community in Cleveland saw “nothing wrong” with the imam’s calls to murder Jews, made back in 1991.
In an exceptional story in today’s Plain Dealer, reporter Amanda Garrett reveals even more damning evidence against Damra:
- Blood money for deadly bombings of buses and malls in Israel may have been paid for, in part, from a secret fund established in Cleveland, according to a federal indictment unsealed this week.
….Damra – who for years portrayed himself as a moderate who tried to bring local Muslims and Jews together – declined to comment Friday. He nearly lost his job shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, when a grainy video emerged showing him with Al-Arian in Cleveland on April 7, 1991.
….In 1988, Al-Arian, a professor of computer engineering, began traveling around the country, meeting with like-minded pro-Palestinian supporters and establishing a way to help them raise money and recruit members for their cause.
At the same time, Al-Arian also started setting up corporations in Florida – Islamic think tanks and a school – that could accept and disburse money and serve as cover for radical members of The Movement, the indictment said.
Meanwhile, about 1,170 miles to the north, Fawaz Damra had launched his own radical Muslim fund-raising career in Brooklyn, N.Y., recruiting fighters for the Muslim holy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
However, when the Soviets withdrew, there was an international fight over what to do with the leftover money and power. Damra’s mentor was killed. So was his fund-raising colleague in Brooklyn.
Damra ultimately left Brooklyn, and in 1991 he became imam in Cleveland. Three months later, Damra and Al-Arian would come together on a Cleveland stage. Damra, in front of video cameras, introduced Al-Arian at the April 7 fund-raiser.
By then, The Movement was shifting large sums of money around the world. The indictment said the group could afford to pay 400 families of “martyrs” – suicide bombers and those who died for the cause – $120 a month.
But it still wasn’t enough. Al-Arian fretted that nearly $2 million of The Movement’s money was missing and sent messages to members to surrender assets, the indictment said.
Money was soon flowing again, and on March 6, 1994, Al-Arian shared the news with Unindicted Co-Conspirator One. The indictment said Al-Arian said he raised $53,000 in Chicago, about $25,000 of it in cash.
Still, it wasn’t enough. There were so many families to pay.
The indictment said Al-Arian and Unindicted Co-Conspirator One discussed a tax scheme to get more. If Al-Arian would send Unindicted Co-Conspirator One some of the money from Chicago, he would arrange for wealthy people to take it and then donate it back to Al-Arian’s group. The wealthy people – all earned more than $200,000 – could then use the donation as a tax write-off and donate the tax savings back to Al-Arian’s group.
….Members of The Movement began to worry. They feared the United States and others were watching them. That month Al-Arian talked to the founder of The Movement about a list of 172 people listed as potential co-conspirators in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the indictment said.
Associates of The Movement were on the list.
So was Fawaz Damra. Many of those arrested in the bombing, including the blind cleric Omar Abdel-Rahman, had ties to the Brooklyn mosque where Damra once was imam. The FBI questioned Damra. He was never charged.
….on May 18, 1998, Unindicted Co-Conspirator One talked with Al-Arian by phone. The indictment said he told Al-Arian to expect an additional “sum” and that a “letter” had already been sent. Al-Arian’s only reply was that he did not call because he didn’t want to talk over the phone.
….The following spring, on March 14, 2001, Unindicted Co-Conspirator One called one of Al-Arian’s Tampa groups. He said he would be traveling to London – where Egyptian-born Bashir Musa Mohammed Nafi, the founder of The Movement, lives – and wanted the founder’s telephone number, the indictment said.
After providing the phone number, one of Al-Arian’s colleagues asked Unindicted Co-Conspirator One to arrange a fund-raiser to help Al-Arian’s school. Unindicted Co-Conspirator One said he would try to make arrangements in May, the indictment said.
It’s unclear whether that happened. But in April, money from hundreds of Cleveland Muslims was funneled from two fund-raisers to the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which the FBI said helped finance Hamas.
It would appear that Damra did not have a change of heart after his hateful speech of 1991; it would appear that he, AT MINIMUM, still sympathized with the murder of Israeli civilians, and possibly contributed financial support for The Movement and Hamas, as recently as 2001. This is not going away, cannot be explained away, and this poison sits at this very moment at the center of the Cleveland Islamic community.
It would appear that Cleveland’s Islamic spiritual leader aided and abetted Palestinian terror. President Bush was right – not simplistic, not paranoid – when he said you are either with us or against us in the War on Terror, which includes Palestinian terrorist’s ongoing campaign against Israeli civilians. Cleveland’s, and America’s, Islams must decide where they stand in the War – no more coy riding the fence – and declare their position unambiguously. This supporter of terror, of murder, Damra, is a disgrace – his insidious influence must end.