Rishon LeZion, Israel: Israeli police arrested on Tuesday an Islamic cleric accused of inciting violence in connection with deadly tensions last month at a Jerusalem holy site.
Arab-Israeli Raed Salah was arrested at his home in the town of Umm al-Fahm, seven months after he was released from prison where he served nine months on similar charges.
On Tuesday police said in a statement Salah was accused of inciting violence and terrorism as well as support for and participation in an illegal organisation.
His group, the radical northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, was outlawed in 2015 for incitement linked to Jerusalem’s Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
Salah, 58, is also accused of having publicly supported violent acts against the country on several occasions following the ban on his organisation, police said.
After his arrest, he appeared at magistrate’s court in Rishon Lezion near Tel Aviv and was remanded into custody until Thursday.
Violence erupted in and around Haram al-Sharif last month after three Arab Israelis shot dead two policemen on July 14 before being killed by security forces.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported police allegations that Salah gave a sermon during the funerals in Umm al-Fahm for the three assailants, praising their actions.
They also accuse him of previously inciting violence by “calling on people to fight on the Temple Mount,” the paper said.
Israel responded to the July 14 deadly shootings by installing metal detectors at the entrance to the holy site, used as a staging point for the attack.
For nearly two weeks, worshippers refused to submit to the checks and staged mass prayers in surrounding streets.
Ensuing protests and clashes left seven Palestinians dead, while three Israelis were fatally stabbed by a Palestinian assailant.
The crisis abated when Israel removed the detectors.
– ‘Political intimidation’ –
Salah served a nine-month prison term after being convicted of fomenting violent protests over the holy site.
He was convicted of having incited violence in a 2007 speech. He was found guilty in 2014 and his appeals were later denied.
Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement following Salah’s Tuesday arrest that he hoped “this time justice will be done and he will be sent behind bars for a long time.”
Salah’s lawyer Khaled Zabarka told journalists at the court his client “doesn’t break the law” and that his speeches were always within the bounds of free speech.
A prominent committee representing Arabs in Israel called the arrest “political intimidation” intended to silence dissent, while an Arab member of Israel’s parliament said Salah “stands against the murder of innocents.”
“He participated in the funeral (of the Al-Aqsa attackers) as many thousands participated in the funeral of his neighbours who are residents of Umm al-Fahm,” Osama Saadi said.
“So what, would they arrest 10,000 people who participated in the funeral of the guys from Umm al-Fahm?”
The Jerusalem holy site, which includes the revered Al-Aqsa mosque and the golden-topped Dome of the Rock, is the third-holiest in Islam and the most sacred for Jews.
Central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the compound is located in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.
Palestinians fear Israel will gradually seek to assert further control over it, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly he is committed to the status quo.
Arab-Israelis are descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land following the creation of Israel in 1948.
They account for some 17.5 percent of the eight million population and largely sympathise with the Palestinian cause.