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East Jerusalem sheikh indicted for inciting violence in Al-Aqsa Mosque speech

Prosecution asks court to extend Issamat Hamuri’s arrest, citing ‘sensitive’ circumstances under which his speech poses a risk to public safety; attorney claims charges political

A Muslim worshiper wears a Hamas flag during a protest following Friday prayers at the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
A Muslim worshiper wears a Hamas flag during a protest following Friday prayers at the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

A Muslim sheikh from East Jerusalem was indicted on Monday for incitement to violence after allegedly calling for the “liberation of al-Aqsa with weapons and force,” in a sermon outside the mosque attended by some 200 people about two weeks ago.

Issamat Hamuri, 56, also hailed Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif in the speech, the indictment read.

Some people in the crowd were seen waving Hamas flags as Hamuri spoke, according to reports in Hebrew media.

“There is no choice but to unite Muslim countries and act resolutely to liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he was quoted as saying.

“This is not an impossible mission with Allah’s will. The good started at Al-Aqsa Mosque and it shall return to Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he added.

His speech was filmed and distributed on social media, reports noted.

Hamuri’s attorney Rami Utman said in a statement that his client’s arrest was political and that the charges will not stand up in court.

The charges, Utman argued, were meant “to scare people away from visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

The prosecution has asked the Jerusalem District Court to extend Hamuri’s arrest until his trial. In its request, the prosecution wrote: “The danger posed by the suspect is increased during this period in time, considering the heightened tension reflected recently in terror attacks across the country and repeated riots in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, some of which took place after the suspect’s speech.

“The suspect’s actions necessarily contribute to fanning the tension and its repercussions at a sensitive time and under circumstances that increase the risk to the public.”

The incident took place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and just before the Jewish holiday of Passover. The culmination of these two religious events led to increased tension in the capital and especially in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound atop the Temple Mount, where Palestinian rioters clashed daily with Israeli security and Jews attempting to visit the site.

It is unclear whether Hamuri’s speech had a direct impact on the violence that followed.

Palestinians throw stones in clashes with Israeli security forces at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, April 15, 2022. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

In 2020, Arab Israeli cleric Raed Salah was sentenced to 28 months in prison after being convicted of incitement to terrorism over a 2017 speech in which he praised a deadly attack at the Temple Mount.

He was released in December last year after serving 17 months and given a hero’s welcome in his hometown of Umm al-Fahm in the north of the country.

In February, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked signed an order prohibiting the Muslim cleric from leaving the country.

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