Court extends firebrand cleric’s detention over incitement
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Court extends firebrand cleric’s detention over incitement

Sheikh Raed Salah to be held in custody until Thursday as prosecutors prepare to file charges

Sheikh Raed Salah arrives at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on August 15, 2017. (Avi Dishi/Flash90)
Sheikh Raed Salah arrives at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on August 15, 2017. (Avi Dishi/Flash90)

A court on Monday extended the detention of a firebrand Islamic cleric accused of inciting violence in connection with deadly tensions last month over the Temple Mount.

Sheikh Raed Salah will now be held in custody until Thursday, the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court ruled.

Prosecutors told the court that they intend to file charges against Salah, his lawyer Khaled Zabarka said.

Salah, a prominent member of Israel’s now-banned Islamist Movement Northern Branch, was arrested last week.

Police have told the court the allegations against Salah relate to a sermon he gave after a deadly July attack in which three Arab Israelis killed two policemen near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound with guns they had smuggled into the holy site.

Police alleged the sermon was “directly related to the murder of the two policemen and delivered in front of a large crowd.”

Israeli-Arab Sheikh Raed Salah the leader of the radical northern wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, prayers with supporters in Umm al-Fahm after he was released from prison on January 17, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)
Israeli-Arab Sheikh Raed Salah the leader of the radical northern wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, prayers with supporters in Umm al-Fahm after he was released from prison on January 17, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)

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 last week 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 over accusations it maintained links to terror groups and for stoking a wave of violence that saw dozens of deaths in a spate of stabbing, car-ramming and shooting attacks.

A picture taken on July 17, 2017, shows the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)
A picture taken on July 17, 2017, shows the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)

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 Murabitun, whose protests against Jewish visitors at the Temple Mount have occasionally turned violent. In September last year, Israel banned the group from the Mount.

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