Court overturns decision to free Islamist cleric accused of incitement

Judge says unclear how lower court was even allowed to review detention conditions for Islamic Movement leader Raed Salah

Leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, arrives for a court hearing at the Haifa Magistrate's Court on March 29, 2018. (Flash90)
Leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, arrives for a court hearing at the Haifa Magistrate's Court on March 29, 2018. (Flash90)

The Haifa District Court on Thursday overturned a decision by a lower court to release to house arrest a controversial Islamist cleric held for months on charges of incitement to terror.

Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, has been in custody since his arrest in August. Prosecutors successfully appealed after the Haifa Magistrate’s Court ordered he be allowed to return home on supervised release Wednesday.

District court judge Ron Shapiro sided with prosecutors that putting Salah under house arrest with electronic tagging and a NIS 20,000 ($5,720) bond would not be sufficient to prevent him making statements inciting others to carry out attacks.

“In ideological-based offenses, it is difficult to make do with electronic supervision, especially with respect to a person who is defined as a public leader and who has great influence on the public at large,” he wrote in his ruling.

Salah was arrested last year for making comments raising three Arab Israelis who shot dead two police officers in July just outside the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem. The attack, and Israel’s ensuing decision to beef up security at the holy site, significantly ramped up tensions between Israel and the Arab world.

Leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, arrives for a hearing at a Haifa court on March 29, 2018. (Flash90)

He is awaiting trial on charges of incitement to terror. The indictment also accused Salah of supporting a banned organization and described how he published on his personal Facebook account, on different occasions posts calling for violence or terror, the Justice Ministry said in a statement.

Shapiro chided the lower court for ruling Salah could be released, saying that the even hearing the case appeared to circumvent procedure by overruling the district court’s decision earlier this month that found Salah’s detention conditions did not need to be reviewed.

Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan, left, and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, right, the police officers killed in the terror attack next to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)

Salah’s lawyer claimed that the Shin Bet security service was unfairly targeting him.

“Show me one Jewish inciter who has been jailed,” he said Thursday.

“My client is a law abiding person,” he added, according to Channel 10 news. “There is no inflammatory content in his speeches which are merely based on a traditional Islamic prayer for the dead.”

The decision to keep Salah in detention was welcomed by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.

“The place of the terrorist inciter Raed Salah is behind bars, and I hope that this time he will stay there for many years,” Erdan tweeted. “The lies and incitement that he disseminated have already caused violence and murder, and he must pay the price for his actions.”


Former Labor MK Shachiv Shnaan, the father of one of the police officers slain in the attack praised by Saleh, also welcomed the court’s decision.

“I thank the State Prosecutor’s Office, which challenged the decision to release him,” he said according to Channel 10. “Salah’s place is in jail. I hope he will be punished and hope justice will triumph.”

His detention until the end of proceedings was approved by the Haifa Magistrate’s Court in response to a request by prosecutors. In October the Haifa District Court rejected an appeal by Salah against the detention.

Following the July shooting attack, Israel shut down the Temple Mount to Muslim worshipers before reopening the site two days later after installing metal detectors at entrances to the holy site. In response to the placement of the metal detectors, Muslim worshipers boycotted the Temple Mount until their removal.

Israeli police clash with Palestinian protesters during a protest against metal detectors that were placed at gates to the Temple Mount, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on July 19, 2017 (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

In addition to daily protests outside the Old City, anger over the move also sparked violent clashes between police and demonstrators, with five Palestinians killed in clashes. Tensions at the site were also cited by the Palestinian terrorist who stabbed to death three members of the Salomon family during Shabbat dinner at their home in the West Bank settlement of Halamish.

As part of the indictment, prosecutors charged Salah with an additional two counts of incitement to terror for speeches he gave encouraging the violent clashes surrounding the Temple Mount.

Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

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