Former grand mufti of Jerusalem to be investigated for incitement to terror

Criminal probe okayed into Sheikh Ekrima Sabri for telling family of Palestinian gunman who killed soldier that the status of a martyr is ‘sublime and divine, and to be aspired to’

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, former grand mufti of Jerusalem, who is under investigation for incitement. (AP/Joao Silva)
Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, former grand mufti of Jerusalem, who is under investigation for incitement. (AP/Joao Silva)

Former grand mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Ekrima Sabri is to be investigated for incitement to terror, which he allegedly did during a visit to the home of a Palestinian gunman who killed an Israeli soldier last year, the Attorney General’s Office announced Tuesday.

A representative from the Attorney General’s Office informed the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environmental Committee that approval had been given for a criminal investigation of Sabri, the Knesset spokesperson said in a statement.

The announcement came during a discussion on incitement to terrorism in local authorities in response to a statement from the father of an IDF soldier killed in a 2017 car-ramming in Jerusalem, who asked why the controversial cleric was not being investigated.

Herzl Hajaj, the father of Cadet Shir Hajaj who was killed in the 2017 attack along with three other soldiers — Lieutenant Yael Yekutiel, Cadet Shira Tzur and Cadet Erez Orbach — called Sabri “the greatest instigator in Israel.”

The attorney general’s representative explained to lawmakers that under anti-terrorism laws, an investigation required a real possibility that publishing words of praise, support, or sympathy would result in the commission of an act of terrorism.

The representative said that Sabri was under criminal investigation.

A composite photo of the four Israeli soldiers killed when a terrorist rammed his truck into a group of cadets on January 8, 2017 in Jerusalem. Clockwise from left, IDF Lieutenant Yael Yekutiel, IDF Cadet Shir Hajaj, IDF Cadet Erez Orbach, IDF Cadet Shira Tzur. (Handout photos from IDF spokesperson)

Sabri was questioned by police last month on suspicion of inciting terror over comments he made to the family of Palestinian gunman Udai Tamimi.

Tamimi shot and killed IDF soldier Sgt. Noa Lazar during an attack on a Jerusalem-area checkpoint on October 8, 2022, according to police.

He was shot dead while trying to attack security guards near the entrance to the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, following a week-long manhunt.

During the visit to Tamimi’s home, Sabri encouraged other young Palestinians to join the “family of martyrs,” and said that such a status was “sublime and divine, and to be aspired to.”

Sgt Noa Lazar, 18, who was killed in a shooting attack in East Jerusalem on October 8, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Sabri was grilled by police on January 2 following pressure from right-wing groups to investigate him over the comments. He was released, and later that month allowed to fly to Morocco where he participated in a conference.

Sabri has a history of run-ins with the law, mostly over fiery sermons in which he has expressed support for suicide bombers and Holocaust denial.

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