Sheikh Raed Salah .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The leader of the outlawed northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, was released from prison Tuesday after serving a nine month sentence for incitement to violence.
Salah’s troubles with the authorities are far from over, however. The police’s Lahav 433 investigations unit last week concluded an investigation into fresh suspicions of incitement and conducting illegal activities with the northern branch of the Islamic Movement. Police determined an evidentiary basis for the alleged offenses and recommended an indictment to the Haifa District Attorney, who will reach a decision on prosecuting Salah.
The new allegations against Salah are based on a number of statements made by the Islamic Movement leader expressing his involvement and role in its northern branch after it was outlawed in 2014, and his alleged incitement towards violence.
Relatives and supporters of Salah came to Ramon Prison in the Negev on Tuesday morning to greet him but were told he was not there. Instead, prison authorities released him at a bus stop in Kiryat Malachi, according to Prison Authority spokesman Asaf Librati. “We had information that there was a call for the northern branch of the Islamic Movement to come to the prison. We were concerned there would be a provocation there so we brought him to the bus station. He could have called for someone to come there and pick him up, but he decided to board a bus.”
Salah took an Egged bus to Tel Aviv and once there, Arab youths gave him a ride to Hassan Bey mosque, near Jaffa, the Arab48 website reported.
“The decision to release me in this manner is unwise,” Salah told the website. “I don’t know who took it. Right after dawn prayers I was released and they dropped me off in Kiryat Malachi and told me ‘now you must go home.’ I said to them ‘you bear responsibility for my safety.’” Kamal Khatib, a follower of Salah, accused authorities of exposing the firebrand leader to possible bodily harm from Jewish extremists by releasing him in that fashion.
Salah was convicted for a 2007 speech in the Wadi Joz neighborhood of east Jerusalem in which he repeatedly referred to the merit of martyrs who died while fighting Israel and other non-Islamic enemies.
“Now we are in this blessed and pure place, a place of blessing and purity, if not for the disturbances and obstruction that has befallen us by the Israeli conquest which will be removed, please God, just as other such occupations were removed in the past.’’ Three border policemen were wounded in violence that broke out after the speech.
Israel outlawed the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in November 2015, with the government explaining that the group has for years “been waging a campaign of deceitful incitement under the banner of ‘al-Aksa is in danger,’ which blames Israel by falsely accusing it of intending to harm the Aksa Mosque and to violate the status quo there.”
Police concluded an investigation of Salah about the fresh suspicions against him of incitement to violence and terror and activity in a banned organization and forwarded the findings to state attorneys, according to a police statement.
“The investigation started after publications in the media, websites and social media, all after the banning of the movement, of a series of pronouncements by Sheikh Raed Salah about the existence of the movement and his role in it despite it being outlawed and also about a variety of issues at the heart of the movement’s world view,” the statement read.
“During the investigation, Raed Salah was questioned under caution and other investigative actions were taken and an evidentiary infrastructure was established for the apparent carrying out of the offenses attributed to Sheikh Salah,” it added.
MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) termed the police’s recommendation to bring new charges against Salah “part of the political persecution against Arab leaders in Israel.”
“He has the right to express his views and I don’t see anything illegal in what he’s doing, he’s not inciting to racism or violence so why violate his rights of freedom [of expression]? You can agree or disagree with him, and he’s very far from us, but I think he has a right to speak.”
Wadia Awawdy, a journalist for Hala TV in Taiba, said that as a result of the police recommendation against Salah “people will identify with him, but... there’s less support for Raed Salah today than in the past,” Awawdy said, attributing the decline to the Islamic Movement’s adherence to support for Islamist rebels in the Syrian civil war, a stance that over time has become unpopular with much of public opinion among Arab citizens of Israel, according to Awawdy.
Another factor is that the Islamic Movement is suffering from having been outlawed, which Awawdy says has deterred people from supporting Salah and the group.Eliyahu Kamisher contributed to this report