JERUSALEM – Israel has released the deported former imam of Ohio’s biggest mosque after a military court ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to hold him on charges of ties to a Palestinian militant group, his lawyer said Thursday.

Fawaz Damra, from the West Bank town of Nablus, had been held in Israel for three weeks after American authorities deported him from the U.S. Damra was freed after his relatives posted a $2,400 bond, said his lawyer, Smadar Ben-Natan.

Damra, 46, served as imam at the Islamic Center of Cleveland, and has three American-born daughters. He was deported by U.S. authorities because he lied when applying for American citizenship in 1994 about his links to Islamic Jihad, a group classified by Israel and the U.S. as a terrorist organization.

The Iranian-backed organization has killed dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings.

Footage from a 1991 speech showed Damra raising money for a Palestinian holy war and saying Muslims should be “directing all the rifles at the first and last enemy of the Islamic nation and that is the sons of monkeys and pigs, the Jews.”

Damra later apologized for the statements, but was deported in early January. He was escorted by U.S. officials to Jordan and then to the West Bank, where he was transferred to the custody of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service.

Damra’s wife and daughters remain in the U.S.

Some American Muslim leaders have been critical of U.S. authorities for deporting the imam and for turning him over to Israel.


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