Court rejects appeal for bail by controversial Islamic cleric

Court rejects appeal for bail by controversial Islamic cleric

Sheikh Raed Salah claimed sermons cited in his indictment for incitement to violence were taken out of context

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, arrives at the courthouse, August 21, 2017. (Flash90)
Leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, arrives at the courthouse, August 21, 2017. (Flash90)

The Haifa District Court on Monday rejected an appeal by a controversial Islamic cleric against his detention until the conclusion of proceedings against him for charges of incitement to terror.

Sheikh Raed Salah, a leading member of Israel’s now-outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamist Movement, has been in custody since his arrest in August. Prosecutors charged him at the time with incitement to terror for, among other things, praising three Arab Israelis who shot dead two police officers in July just outside the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem.

Among the suspected calls for incitement to terror cited by the indictment filed at the Haifa Magistrate’s Court was a speech given by Salah at the funeral of the three men who carried out the attack outside the Temple Mount, and who, like Salah, were from the Arab Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm.

Ruling against Salah’s petition for release, Judge Erez Porat wrote that the cleric had “repeated his blood-soaked words again and again in a tense and explosive public situation, and as such revealed himself to be a threat to public welfare.

“This is doubly true when the appellant has a criminal record rife with similar crimes, apparently doesn’t fear the legal authorities and repeatedly attacks the government and the security authorities and encourages more acts of terror against them,” Porat said.

In his speech, Salah praised the three Temple Mount attackers — all of them named Muhammad Jabarin — as “martyrs” and asked for “God to have mercy upon them.”

Medics treat victims of a shooting attack on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City on July 14, 2017. (Magen David Adom)

The three Arab Israelis shot dead two police officers using guns smuggled by an accomplice into the Temple Mount complex.

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.

His detention until the end of proceedings was initially ruled on by the Haifa Magistrate’s Court in response to a request by prosecutors. In his petition for release, Salah argued that his comments were taken out of their religious context and did not constitute a criminal offense.

Porat rejected the argument, saying Salah’s statements constituted “encouragement and support for those who chose to confront security forces in the area of the Temple Mount.”

Security footage released by police on July 20, 2017, shows the three terrorists behind the Temple Mount shooting at the site the morning of the attack. (Screen capture: YouTube)

He also noted that an Arab Israeli man arrested in Tel Aviv on his way to carry out a stabbing attack told investigators he was inspired by a Salah sermon.

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.

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.

Salah was also charged with membership in an illegal organization over his continued involvement in the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement. It was banned in late 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.

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