Deported imam arrested by Israel

Palestinian immigrant Fawaz Damra, the former imam at the Islamic Center of Cleveland, Ohio, was deported on Jan. 4—a year after reaching an agreement with the US government to give up his fight to remain in the US. That agreement had stipulated that Damra would be deported either to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Egypt or the Palestinian territories. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced on Jan. 5 that Damra had been deported to the Palestinian territories. (AP, Jan. 5; ICE news release, Jan. 5)

Originally from the West Bank town of Nablus, Damra immigrated to the US in the mid-1980s. In June 2004, a federal judge revoked his US citizenship after convicting him of lying on his naturalization application by not revealing his ties to a group affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Damra’s attorney, Michael Birach, said the imam was a victim of immigration officials who wanted to look tough after the Sept. 11 attacks. (AP, Jan. 5)

ICE spokesperson Greg Palmore asserted on Jan. 5 and again on Jan. 8 that Damra had been flown to Amman, Jordan, on Jan. 5 and directly handed over to Palestinian authorities at the Allenby Bridge that links Jordan to the West Bank. But Damra’s brother, Nabil Damra, speaking by cell phone from the West Bank, said on Jan. 8 that Israeli authorities had arrested Fawaz Damra “the moment he arrived to the border.” Nabil Damra said the Red Cross and the Israel-based Center for the Defense of the Individual, which advocates for the rights of Palestinians, had told him that Fawaz Damra was in custody and had been taken to Israel’s Al Jalameh detention facility near Jenin in the northern West Bank. Nabil Damra said a lawyer had been hired for his brother. (AP, Jan. 8)

Israel’s Shin Bet security service confirmed on Jan. 9 that it is holding Fawaz Damra. Without providing further details, the Shin Bet said Damra was arrested because of his ties to Islamic Jihad. (AP, Jan. 9)

From Immigration News Briefs, Jan. 12

See our last post on the immigration crackdown and the Palestinians caught in the web. See our last post on the Israel/Palestine.