- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A federal judge in Alexandria has dismissed a lawsuit against the former business manager of the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., one of the area’s largest and most prominent mosques.

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in October, Farzad Darui was accused of embezzling more than $300,000 from the mosque, located in the 2500 block of Massachusetts Avenue Northwest.

The suit was dismissed last week, but can be filed again.

Robert P. Watkins, an attorney for the center, yesterday declined to comment on the reason for the civil lawsuit’s dismissal, but noted that the case wasn’t thrown out of court.

Federal authorities in the District last month filed criminal fraud charges against Mr. Darui in a complaint that outlines most of the same accusations made by mosque officials in the civil suit.

“It was dismissed without prejudice. We can reinstate it anytime,” Mr. Watkins said yesterday.

Mr. Darui’s attorney, Victoria Toensing, said the center requested the suit’s dismissal.

“We’re delighted that they finally saw there was no basis for it,” she said. “We assume the same thing is going to happen in the criminal case.”

In an FBI affidavit, authorities say Mr. Darui, of Falls Church, defrauded the mosque of up to $374,000 from 2001 to 2004 by altering mosque checks to make them payable to companies he ran.

In a phone interview in October, Mr. Darui denied any wrongdoing and said he was being singled out for opposing a Saudi takeover of the center.

Dedicated in 1957, the Islamic Center is the District’s oldest mosque and serves thousands of local Muslims each month.

The center is overseen by a board of governors that mostly consists of ambassadors from Islamic countries. Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, former ambassador to the United States, is the current board chairman.

The mosque has been a focal point in the District. Days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush visited the center to call for an end to violence against Muslims.

In March 1977, a dozen Muslim gunmen took over the center, the B’nai B’rith headquarters and the District Building, holding 139 persons hostage. One person was fatally shot during the siege. Marion Barry, then and now a D.C. Council member, who was wounded in the incident, won his first mayoral election the following year.

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