DEKALB COUNTY, Ga.,None - A DeKalb County judge granted the leaders of a mosque who violated their probation, three additional months to bring their buildings up to code.
Representatives from the Mosque al-Attaqwa were in court Tuesday morning for a probation revocation hearing, but the judge decided not to take action against them.
Feb. 15, the structures have not been demolished is that correct?" asked Judge Nelly Withers.
"That's correct your honor," replied the county code enforcement representative.
But the judge's anger over the mosque violating her order wasn't directed at mosque leaders, it was focused on county code enforcement officers and the assistant county attorney for going back on the punishment they had previously requested.
"Clearly the conditions of probation have been violated. But there's nothing I can do with reference to that because negotiations were made outside of the framework of the court's order with the defendants," said Withers.
Assistant County Attorney Angela Afflick acknowledged that code enforcement officers have been working behind the scenes with the mosque, which has racked up 16 code violations.
The mosque has also garnered disdain from neighbors, over illegally built additions, congested
streets and parking when hundreds flock to the Doraville neighborhood to pray.
In November, the judge put the mosque on probation, ordering them to tear down the existing structures, and not to hold assemblies or services until a new mosque is built. A Channel 2 Action News investigation exposed them continually violating that order.
"We'll be the first to admit that did happen judge but it happened because there was a confusion on the part of my clients," said M. Khurram Baig, an attorney for the mosque.
The judge agreed the county workers created that confusion.
"Largely because you essentially tried to bring them into compliance rather than essentially standing behind the conditions you requested," added Withers.
She further addressed the county workers new conditions for the mosque saying, "if you go back behind that again then I'm going to be finding you in contempt."
The judge granted the mosque leaders an additional 90 days to bring the buildings up to code and get a certificate of occupancy.
Neighbor Tom Owens says after 10 years, he's skeptical, "There's numerous more violations than what's reported and it's a lot more work to do."
Mosque leaders say they've already hired an engineer and plan to work with county inspectors to follow the law.
"I think the court has come to a very fair solution that's going to allow this thing to be resolved and hopefully we won't have to come back here again," said Baig
He told the judge the worshipers have been conducting services in the parking lot for the last few weeks, to avoid violating their probation further. The judge said if they get the necessary permits they can hold services inside, but only in the portions of the houses that are deemed safe.
Everything must be fixed and up to code by May 28.