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Israel allows Palestinian cleric probed for incitement to fly to Morocco

MKs aim fire at authorities for allowing former grand mufti Ekrima Sabri to take off for conference hosted by arm of Islamic body charged with protecting al-Aqsa Mosque

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)

A controversial Muslim cleric under investigation in Israel for comments praising a Palestinian terrorist was nonetheless allowed to leave the country to attend a conference in Morocco, according to Hebrew language media, sparking condemnation from conservative politicians.

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, a former grand mufti of Jerusalem, flew to the north African kingdom last week to take part in a conference hosted by the Bayt Mal Al-Quds Al-Sharif Agency, the Walla news site reported. The Rabat-controlled arm of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation is charged with protecting Muslim holy sites and preserving Palestinian culture in the holy city.

Sabri was allowed to fly despite having been questioned by police earlier this month on suspicion of inciting terror, over comments he made to the family of slain Palestinian gunman, Udai Tamimi, the report said.

Tamimi shot and killed Sgt. Noa Lazar during an attack on a Jerusalem-area checkpoint on October 8, according to police. He was shot to death following a week-long manhunt while trying to attack security guards near the entrance to the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.

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

Sabri was grilled by police on January 2 following pressure from right-wing groups to investigate him over the comments. He was released home, and police have yet to transfer the case for charges to be filed, the State Prosecutor’s Office told Walla.

Police declined to place a travel ban on Sabri, despite a history of run-ins with the law, mostly over fiery sermons in which he has expressed support for suicide bombers and Holocaust denial.

 

In December 2021, authorities placed a four-month travel ban on Sabri after right-wing group Im Tirtzu filed a complaint over remarks by the sheikh in which he appeared to warn of violence in response to Jewish visits to the Temple Mount.

May Golan, a low-level minister in premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, accused of Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara for “dealing with nonsense, instead of doing her job.”

“Once a terrorist, always a terrorist! It is our duty to prosecute this despicable inciter and initiate a process of denying citizenship to a supporter of terrorism of the lowest kind,” Golan said in a statement.

Members of Netanyahu’s coalition have clashed repeatedly with Baharav-Miara as they seek to unravel and reconfigure parts of Israel’s judiciary.

Across the aisle, National Unity MK Sharren Haskel described Sabri being allowed to leave as a “blunder.”  “While an investigation against him for incitement and calls to murder is ongoing in Israel, he slips abroad and continues to incite against Israel,” she tweeted.

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