Published January 13, 2015
An Islamic religious leader convicted of concealing ties to terrorist groups remains jailed in Michigan seven months after he reached a deal with the U.S. government to be deported.
The agreement called for Fawaz Damra's deportation to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Egypt or the Palestinian territories. But so far, no one has been willing to take the former imam of the Islamic Center of Cleveland, officials said.
There is no definitive rule on how long Damra can be held in jail, according to his attorney, Robert Birach.
"If there was progress, he'd be gone by now," said Birach, who declined comment on whether any other countries were being asked to take Damra. "We haven't gotten a country yet to say yes."
A spokesman with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday.
Damra, 44, was convicted in June 2004 of concealing ties to three groups that the U.S. government classifies as terrorist organizations when he applied for U.S. citizenship in 1994.
That conviction was upheld in March 2005, clearing the way for the U.S. to begin deportation proceedings.
In Damra's trial, prosecutors showed video footage of him and other Islamic leaders raising money for an arm of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which has been listed as a terrorist group by the State Department since 1989.
The Palestinian-born Damra immigrated to the United States in the mid-1980s.
Damra is having a difficult time in jail and misses his wife and three children, who still live in the Cleveland area, friend Haider Alawan said.
"He's a man without a country," Alawan said.