Ra'ad Salah
Islamic Movement Northern Branch leader Sheikh Ra'ad Salah Photo by Ilan Asayag
Text size

The Islamic Movement will hold a demonstration in front of the British Embassy in Tel Aviv on Thursday, to protest the arrest of Sheikh Ra'ad Salah, the leader of the northern branch of the movement, in London on Tuesday evening. Representatives of the movement will demand that Salah is immediately released and allowed to continue his planned visit in the United Kingdom.

Islamic movement spokesman Zahi Nujirat, who departed for London last night said that the sheikh was the target of political persecution of the by British authorities, who had succumbed to severe pressure by the Zionist lobby.

Nujirat said Salah had arrived in London over the weekend at the invitation of Middle East Monitor, the Islamic Forum of Europe, and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He had planned to hold a series of lectures and meet with a number of British parliamentaries.

Salah was arrested at his hotel in London late Tuesday evening, after returning from meetings and lectures in Leicester. Activist Lubna Masarwa, who took part in last year's flotilla to Gaza, told Nazareth's Radio A-Shams that the British policeman who arrested Salah did not produce a warrant but simply told him he was under arrest for endangering national security and incitement.

The sheikh's arrest stunned the Islamic Movement. Its leaders held an emergency meeting on Wednesday, in which they decided to stage a protest at the embassy on Thursday and to hire lawyers in London to represent Salah.

The lawyers notified them that they had appealed the arrest and that the appeal would be heard today. The lawyers will ask the court today to clarify the grounds for his arrest.

The British Home Office last week issued an order banning Salah from the country. Haaretz has learned that the reason Salah may have been able to enter the country despite the ban was because of a misunderstanding. Although he is known in Israel and throughout the world as Raed Salah, official documents, including his Israeli passport, bear the name Raed Mahajna, and this may have been overlooked at passport control at the airport.

"A full investigation is now taking place into how he was able to enter," Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May said yesterday in a statement to Al Jazeera. "I can confirm he was excluded and that he managed to enter the UK. He has now been detained and the UK border agency is now making arrangements to remove him."

Salah's arrest came after British newspapers questioned his presence in the country. The Daily Mail called Salah's entry a "joke" and reported that he "strolled through border checks which were supposed to identify that he was on a list of banned fanatics." A blog in the Daily Telegraph was headlined, "They'll let anyone in: anti-Semitic preacher Ra'ad Salah is in London despite being banned."

Meanwhile, MKs Hanna Swaid (Hadash ) and Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al ) met yesterday with visiting Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt and asked him to help obtain Salah's release. They pointed out that Salah had lectured at Tel Aviv University up until a month ago but was barred from lecturing in the UK. They asked Burt if the British government was trying to be "more Israeli than the Israelis."