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Court charges Palestinian movement leader with inciting racism

Salah has been in and out of Israeli prisons since 2003
Sheikh Raed Salah takes part in protest in Um al Fahm, Jerusalem on 9 November (MEE / Oren Ziv)

The district court in Jerusalem today charged Sheikh Raed Salah with inciting racism after the magistrate court had acquitted him of the charge six months ago.

“Today, the district court changed the ruling of magistrate court, convicting Sheikh Raed of inciting racism as well as violence,” his lawyer Mustafa Mahamid told MEE.

The court hearing comes after an exchange of appeals between Salah’s legal team and the prosecutor general who took him to court over a Friday prayer sermon he delivered in 2007 in Jerusalem’s Wadi Aljuz at a time when he was banned from entering Al-Aqsa.

During the Friday sermon Salah had allegedly called on all Muslims to protect the mosque against the storming of Jewish settlers and members of the Knesset, Mahamid said.

Following the 2007 sermon, the Israel general prosecutor accused Sheikh Raed of inciting violence and racism. While the magistrate court acquitted Salah of inciting racism he was convicted of inciting violence and sentenced to eight months in prison.

However the district court has appealed his acquittal is attempting to overturn the magistrate court’s ruling to invoke a longer sentence against Salah.

“The prosecutor general appealed the court’s acquittal of the Sheikh on charges of inciting racism and has called for his conviction,” said Mahamid, noting that his legal team have appealed.

Salah is leader of the northern Islamic Movement, considered the more radical of its two branches in Israel and perceived as ideologically close to Hamas. Though Salah rejects violent resistance as a strategy for his movement, Israeli Jews view him as a public enemy.

Salah has been put under the spotlight since 2002’s second intifada for his refusal to engage with Israel as a Jewish state, his rallying calls that the al-Aqsa mosque needs protecting from Israel and his frequent spells in Israeli jails. He was recently described in an Israeli editorial as a “convicted facilitator of terror and a rabble-rouser.”

“This [the case] comes at a time when freedoms of expression and belief are being muted. These charges are being made in order to silence any voices calling for protecting Al-Aqsa Mosque or ending the occupation of Jerusalem. It is an attempt to stifle any broader dissent,” Mahamid told MEE.

Tension in Jerusalem has come to a head over the past few weeks since Israeli police shot and killed Mu'taz Hijazai, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, who they said was the main suspect in an attack on Israeli right-wing activist Yehuda Glick.

Daily protests and clashes between Palestinian youth and the Israeli security forces have intensified across the West Bank.