Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel landed at Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday evening after a nearly year-long stay in the UK, where he won a lengthy legal battle against the British government who tried to deport him.
Salah entered Britain in June, despite being banned from the country. He spoke at a number of anti-Israel events before being arrested on June 29. Last week Salah won an appeal against the British government with a tribunal deeming his incarceration "entirely unnecessary." As a result of his legal victory, he was allowed to leave the UK as a free man, rather than being forcefully expelled from the country.
Upon his return to Israel on Monday, Salah was interrogated by security forces at the airport before being released.
The Islamic Movement leader was greeted by thousands at his home in Umm al-Faham, including MKs Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab List-Ta'al) and Jamal Zahalka (Balad).
Upon his arrest in Britain in June, MK Zahalka accused the UK government of "cooperating with Israeli oppression.
“The arrest is a blow to the Arab public in Israel, which sees Sheikh Raed Salah as one of its leaders,” Zahalka explained. “This is a political and religious figure, and there is no justified reason to arrest him. Instead of the UK supporting the rights of Arab citizens in Israel, they are cooperating in harming them.”
Prior to his flight to Britain, in April of last year, Salah was detained for questioning on suspicion that he attacked police officers and obstructed their duties at the Allenby Bridge, connecting the West Bank to Jordan.
Late last year, the Islamic Movement leader was released from prison in Ramle after serving a five-month sentence.
Salah had been convicted of assaulting and spitting on a police officer who was providing security at a demonstration sponsored by the sheikh in 2007.
Salah also took part in the 2010 Gaza Flotilla, sailing on the Mavi Marmara
, the site of a raid by Israel Navy commandos that left 9 Turkish men dead. Jonny Paul and Ben Hartman contributed to this report.