The Jerusalem District Court rejected Tuesday an appeal to reduce the prison sentence of Ra'ad Salah, the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, ensuring he serves the 11 months to which he was sentenced. He will begin serving his sentence on November 15, in Nitzan Prison.
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Salah was convicted last March of incitement to violence or terror and of incitement to racism, in the wake of a sermon he delivered in Jerusalem's Wadi Joz neighborhood in 2007. The State Prosecutor's Office requested a harsh punishment and a sentence of 16 to 42 months in prison, while his attorneys requested a reduction in the punishment so that it would not include imprisonment behind bars.
Many supporters of Sheikh Salah came to the court for the hearing, as did Knesset members Jamal Zahalka and Haneen Zoabi from the Joint Arab List and former MK Mohammed Barakeh. Zahalka said at the end of the proceedings "This is an unjust punishment and its political context is defense of the Al Aqsa Mosque. The Israeli establishment wants to portray as illegitimate activity to guarantee freedom of worship for the Muslim nation in Al Aqsa. We will defend the mosque no matter what. This punishment will not deter us."
Barakeh also supported Sheikh Salah and said, "This is a political trial. The decision that was passed today is aimed at the entire Arab public, because it comes to question the political legitimacy of the Arab parties and the Arab movements."
About two weeks ago, Salah returned from Ben-Gurion International Airport after Interior Minister Silvan Shalom issued an injunction forbidding him from leaving the country. Salah was on his way to Istanbul to participate in the conference of Arab and Islamic parliaments on Jerusalem. The Islamic Movement accused the government of harassment and continued political persecution.