(photo credit: Associated Press)
Around 100 supporters accompanied Islamic cleric Sheikh Raed Salah to prison on
Sunday, as he began serving a five-month prison term.
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Salah, the head of
the Islamic Movement’s radical Northern Branch, was convicted of a 2007 attack
on a police officer during a Jerusalem protest. The Islamic leader was found
guilty of assaulting and spitting on a police officer who was providing security
at a demonstration sponsored by Salah.
Among the people joining Salah on
his journey to Ayalon Prison was far-left activist Tali Fahima.
press conference before he entered the prison, Salah warned that the second half
of 2010 would be “a fateful year for the al-Aksa Mosque” and reiterated calls
for his supporters to guard the Temple Mount compound from alleged Israeli
aspirations to turn it into a place of Jewish worship. Jerusalem, he said, and
not his detention, should be the major issue of the day.
“It is clear
that the Israeli establishment, through its various arms, always returns to the
detestable logic of conquest,” said the Northern Front in a statement released
Sunday. “The Israeli occupation carries out a crime against al-Aksa, but it is
we who are being jailed. We greet the jail with satisfaction because it is the
price of our stance for the blessed al-Aksa.
On the other hand, we also
greet the prison with anger because of the occupation and the crimes that [the
Israeli establishment] has committed,” he said.
Salah was originally
sentenced to nine months in prison, but the Jerusalem District Court
significantly reduced his sentence two weeks ago after the court ruled that the
initial sentence “was severe beyond appropriate measure.” At the same time, the
court slammed Salah’s actions as ultimately harming the right to demonstrate and
to freedom of expression.
MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) blasted Arab MKs
for “taking a stance against peace” on Sunday after he received reports that a
number of his Arab colleagues had accompanied Salah to prison.
expect Arab society and its representatives in the Knesset to demonstrate
responsibility in distancing themselves from Salah’s actions,” said
“Salah is a figure who has made a goal of inciting against
peace and ruining our chances of achieving it.”