The head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, began a nine-month prison term on Sunday following his conviction for incitement to violence and racism.
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On April 18, the High Court of Justice rejected his petition against his conviction for incitement; however, it reduced the original 11-month sentence to nine months. The ruling was made by a majority of the bench, consisting of High Court Deputy President Elyakim Rubinstein and Justice Anat Baron, with Justice Salim Joubran dissenting.
Salah was convicted two and a half years ago following a sermon he gave in Wadi Joz in East Jerusalem.
Joubran said he believed Salah’s conviction for incitement to racism should stand, but that he should be acquitted of incitement to violence, and his sentence be reduced to six months’ community service. The other two justices believed both original convictions should stand, but that Salah’s prison term be shortened.
Salah left the city of Umm al-Fahm in Wadi Ara this morning in a convoy and arrived at Ohalei Kedar Prison near Be’er Sheva.
A rally was held Friday in Umm al-Fahm at a site where a tent had been set up in November to protest the banning of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement.
At the rally, Saleh appeared to be in a good mood. He smiled and sang an Arabic folk tune about the al-Aqsa mosque, which he urged members of the crowd to be sure and visit over the course of the coming year.
Salah also said he did not fear prison and that he was sure he would emerge stronger than ever. He viewed any prison sentence he received as political persecution, Saleh said.
Turkish representatives were also among the crowd.
One of Saleh's deputies, Sheikh Kamal Khatib, said that "whoever thinks that imprisoning Sheikh Saleh and illegalizing the Islamic movement will stop him from carrying out his plans, is making a big mistake.
"The Al Aqsa mosque is in the heart of every Muslim, Arab and Palestinian," Khatib said.
The movement's northern branch had been preparing for weeks' for Saleh's imprisonment. Central activists announced the establishment of a new party last month, to be headed by Husam Aub Leil, Saleh's other deputy.