Firebrand Islamic cleric Raed Salah convicted of incitement to terrorism

Court sentenced Ariel terrorist with life in prison for murdering Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal

Sheikh Raed Salah (C), head of the Islamic Movement in northern Israel. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Sheikh Raed Salah (C), head of the Islamic Movement in northern Israel.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Firebrand Islamic cleric Sheikh Raed Salah was convicted of incitement to terrorism by the Haifa Magistrates Court on Sunday. He was also convicted of illegal association with the radical Islamic Movement, which Israel outlawed in 2015 for incitement linked to the Temple Mount.
“Hamas blesses Sheikh Raed Salah, who heads the Muslim defense of the Aqsa Mosque,” Hamas said in a statement following his conviction. “Israeli persecution and prison have only strengthened his resolve. We condemn the decision of the Zionist court, which made a political decision that leads to injustice.”
The terrorist organization accused Israel of attacking those who defend the mosque and said, “We will continue to protect the mosque and all Muslim holy places with our souls and blood.”
Salah was arrested and indicted in 2017 at the recommendation of the state’s attorney and with the approval of the attorney general, as is required by law for these kinds of offenses.
According to court files, Salah on several occasions praised, expressed sympathy with or encouraged terrorism. In one case, for example, the cleric is accused of delivering a sermon “directly related to the murder” of two Border Police officers near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
Similarly, he delivered more than one inciteful speech during Friday prayers in Umm al-Fahm, which was attended by hundreds of people.
And he is also convicted of delivering a speech at the funeral of a terrorist, also in Umm al-Fahm, during which thousands of masked people shot off fireworks and cried “Shahid! We will continue to fight” and “In blood we will redeem you, shahid!”
Shahid means martyr.
According to the conviction, Salah delivered his fiery comments with full knowledge that they were being recorded and shared on his Facebook page.
Yousef Jabareen, who attended Salah’s sentencing, told The Jerusalem Post’s sister paper Maariv: “The conviction today is targeted at thwarting freedom of political expression.”
In contrast, Foreign Minister Israel Katz hailed the conviction as an important step in preserving Israeli democracy from those who want to destroy it from within, adding that he has worked to bring Salah and his movement to justice for 15 years.
“It was unfortunate to see the representatives of the Joint List come to strengthen his hands,” he said in a tweet.
Likewise, Education Minister Rafi Peretz expressed his support of the court for the decision.
“The State of Israel has no place for those who support terrorism, even if they are Israeli citizens,” he said.
Also, on Sunday, the Lod District Court sentenced terrorist Abed al-Karim Adel Asi to life in prison for the murder of Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal in a stabbing attack last year.
Asi, a 19-year-old from Nablus, waited at a bus stop near the entrance to the Jewish settlement of Ariel in Samaria. When Ben-Gal approached the stop to catch a bus to Har Bracha for his nephew’s brit milah (circumcision) ceremony, Asi stabbed him. Ben-Gal then attempted to run for help to another nearby bus stop. Asi chased him until an off-duty IDF officer, who witnessed the events, hit the terrorist with his car.
The culprit was able to escape the scene with the help of an unidentified accomplice waiting in a nearby vehicle. It took the Shin Bet (Israel Security Service), Israeli Police Counterterrorism Unit officer and IDF troops six weeks to eventually nab Asi.
In addition to life in prison, Asi was charged with compensating the Ben-Gal family with NIS 258,000.
The court charged that the attack was premeditated.
At the sentencing, Asi faced the prosecutors and told them, “You are the terrorists, not us.”
Ben-Gal’s parents sent a letter to the judges and asked that Asi not be considered for release in any future terrorist deals.
Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan reiterated the family’s sentiments in a statement.
“This despicable terrorist is a dead man,” he said, “The court must make a judicial decision that he will not be released.”
He added that “Our main comfort is in building the country.”
Jerusalem Post Staff and Maariv Online contributed to this report.