Police on Monday arrested a Bedouin Israeli journalist for allegedly broadcasting content sympathetic to a banned Islamist movement on a pirate radio station operating out of the Negev city of Rahat.
Khaled abu Hamra was remanded into custody until Saturday by the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court for promoting the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement on the a-Rif radio station, the Haaretz daily reported on Tuesday.
Last year, the government voted to outlaw the group, accusing it of links to terrorist groups and incitement during the recent wave of violence.
Hamra’s brother Otwa strongly denied the accusations, telling the newspaper his 31-year-old brother was in charge of advertising and had no say in the content of the station’s programming.
He said Hamra was summoned for questioning last month by Israeli security forces, who were aware he worked at an illegal radio station. After warning Hamra not to broadcast “programs that interfere with the state,” in Hamra’s words, he was released and allowed to return to work at a-Rif.
Some Rahat residents confirmed police suspicions to Haaretz, saying Hamra was involved in broadcasting the movement’s messages.
On Monday, police also arrested two other suspected members of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement from the Bedouin city. Sheikh Yousef abu Jamaa and Sheikh Osama al-Yacoubi are expected to be remanded during a Wednesday hearing at the Beersheba court.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan praised the Rahat arrests, saying, “combating the incitement of the Islamic Movement, which encourages young Palestinians to commit acts of terror, was a top priority.”
In November, the security cabinet voted to designate the group a terror organization, making membership in it or participation in its activities a “criminal offense punishable by a prison sentence.”
The Northern Branch rejects the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians, boycotts national elections on the grounds that they legitimize the Jewish state, has claimed repeatedly that Israel seeks to demolish the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount and is accused of encouraging terror attacks against Israeli civilians.
The movement is headed by firebrand cleric Raed Salah, who in 2013 was sentenced to 11 months in prison for incitement to violence and racism over a sermon he delivered in 2007 in Jerusalem.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested that the Justice Ministry ban Salah from visiting the volatile Temple Mount holy site during the upcoming Jewish festival of Passover in a bid to prevent the stoking of further violence during the holiday.