An Israeli court on Thursday extended the detention of a firebrand Islamic cleric accused of inciting violence in connection with deadly tensions last month over a sensitive Jerusalem holy site.
Arab Israeli Raed Salah, a prominent member of a now-banned Islamist movement, was arrested on Tuesday.
The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court extended his remand to August 21.
Supporters in the courtroom stood and shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) when the decision was announced, while around 25 people demonstrated outside in support.
Police told the court the allegations against Salah relate to a sermon he gave after a July terror attack that killed two policemen near Jerusalem’s ultra-sensitive Temple Mount compound.
Police alleged the sermon was “directly related to the murder of the two policemen and delivered in front of a large crowd.”
Salah’s lawyers and supporters say his sermons are always within the bounds of free speech and that he “stands against the murder of innocents.”
They have called the preacher’s arrest political intimidation and say it was intended to silence dissent.
Salah said in court that he had been threatened by Jewish prisoners.
“If something happens, my blood is going to be on (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu’s hands,” he said.
The 58-year-old is accused of inciting violence and terrorism as well as support for and participation in an illegal organization.
His arrest came following his release from prison in January after serving a nine-month sentence on similar allegations.
His group, the radical Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, was outlawed in 2015 for incitement linked to the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif.
The site in Jerusalem’s Old City is the third-holiest in Islam and the most sacred for Jews.
Founded in the 1970s, the Islamic Movement is a political organization, religious outreach group and social services provider rolled into one. The movement’s overarching goal is to make Israeli Muslims more religious and it owes much of its popularity to its provision of services often lacking in Israel’s Arab communities. The group runs kindergartens, colleges, health clinics, mosques and even a sports league – sometimes under the same roof.
The movement split two decades ago. The more moderate Southern Branch began fielding candidates for the Knesset in 1996 and is now part of the Joint List, an alliance of several Arab political parties. Three of the Joint List’s 13 current Knesset members are part of the movement.
The Northern Branch had also funded a group called the Mourabitun, whose protests against Jewish visitors at the Temple Mount have occasionally turned violent. In September last year, Israel banned the group from the Mount.