Jerusalem – Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Israel Islamic Movement’s northern chapter, did not stop smiling yesterday, even when he heard the sentence sending him to nine months imprisonment.
Mr. Salah stood trial in the Jerusalem Magistrates Court and was convicted of assaulting a police officer and taking part in a riot. In the indictment, it was argued that, in February 2007, Mr. Salah led a riot near the Temple Mount to protest the renovation work on the Mughrabi Gate bridge – one of the entrances to the Temple Mount. In the course of the riot, Mr. Salah came up to one of the police officers, spat in his face and said, “You are racists and murderers, you have no honor.”
“The defendant’s actions express hatred and contempt for the people in uniform who represent the rule of law,” stated Judge Yitzhak Shimoni in the ruling, while sentencing Mr. Salah to nine months in prison and a six-month suspended sentence, as well as requiring him to compensate the policeman in the sum of close to (U.S.) $2,000.
“During the police officer’s testimony, the defendant laughed, leaving a very negative impression on me,” he added, and ruled that Mr. Salah would begin to serve his sentence on Feb. 28. Mr. Salah’s defense attorney Khaled Azbarga said that they intended to appeal.
While Mr. Salah heard his sentence, outside the courtroom were dozens of his supporters. When he came out, they gathered around him and shouted: “With our spirit and blood we will redeem the El-Aqsa Mosque.”
Mr. Salah encouraged his supporters, saying: “The court’s ruling doesn’t frighten us.”
Israel Member of Knesset Mohammed Barakeh also came to support the leader of the northern chapter: He laughed out loud and said (congratulations) to Mr. Salah.
“The court’s ruling is political terrorism and legal terrorism against an Arab leader,” sources in the Israeli Arab Supreme Monitoring Committee said yesterday.
The Israel Islamic Movement also reacted dismissively to the ruling: “We didn’t expect justice from the court,” whereas the Balad political party announced that it was siding with Mr. Salah “in the battle against political persecution and against the Israeli occupation measures in Jerusalem.”
Israel Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich said yesterday: “I attribute great importance to the ruling. We will not permit anyone to terrorize the law enforcement agencies.”
Mr. Salah has already spent time in prison. The court sentenced him to three and a half years imprisonment after he was convicted in a plea bargain agreement of contact with a foreign agent and providing service to an unlawful organization. Just three months ago, he was involved in an attempt to provoke a new wave of riots on the Temple Mount but failed due to the low response of the Palestinian public.