Islamic Movement Leader in Israel Expected to Stand Trial for Incitement

Jack Khoury
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Sheikh Kamal al-Khatib in 2010.
Sheikh Kamal al-Khatib in 2010.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Jack Khoury

The State Prosecutor's Office is expected to charge the deputy leader of the northern faction of the Islamic Movement in Israel for incitement, after the sheikh allegedly made incendiary remarks about clashes at Al-Aqsa mosque. 

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Despite the initial warrant mentioning Sheikh Kamal Khatib's membership of a terrorist organization, no offense other than incitement was mentioned by the prosecution's statement on Monday. 

Some 200 people demonstrated at the entrance to the Haifa Magistrate’s Court to protest his arrest, claiming it was politically motivated. Khatib’s driver was arrested during the demonstration. Among the demonstrators were several public figures, including Umm al-Fahm Mayor Samir Mahameed.

Khatib, who denies all allegations against him, was also remanded until Thursday, after the plaintiff argued that there was "reasonable basis for fearing that the defendant will endanger public peace." However, the court ruled that if no indictment is filed against Khatib by Thursday, he will be released without restrictions.

Hassan Jabareen, the director of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and one of his attorneys, said at Monday's hearing that the sheikh's statements did not justify his arrest. In order to refute claims of incitement, the defense team presented a video of a sermon on the day of Khatib's arrest in which he condemned the attack of a Jew who entered Kafr Kana by mistake, and said he would've acted to save him if he was present at the scene.

Khatib was arrested on May 16 in Kafr Kana, following remarks he made after the disturbances at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem Day. His lawyers rejected the allegations against him. The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee in Israel also protested Khatib’s arrest, saying it was an effort to intimidate the Arab public. Following the arrest, disturbances erupted in Kafr Kana in which 28 people were hurt, four seriously. According to the Italian Hospital, to which 18 of the wounded were brought, most had been hit by live fire.

Khatib’s attorney, Hassan Tabajah, said after the hearing, “The court responded partially to the request of the state, which had asked for eight days but got only four. If there is no dramatic development, it’s expected that the investigating unit will consider his release.” He added, “The decision speaks for itself … each of us can understand that the suspicions directed at Khatib do not require his detention.”

The Shin Bet security service said that in recent weeks Khatib had “made use of his public position to incite and inflame the rioters on the Temple Mount and throughout the country. His remarks resonate on social media and encourage violent demonstrations and disturbances.”

According to the Shin Bet statement, Khatib “had been warned a number of times and it was made clear to him that his messages encourage terror activity and were approaching the level of criminal violations.” It added that Khatib had been arrested “in light of the great risk his activity poses to public safety and public order.”

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