Sheikh Ra'ad Salah, head of the Northern Branch of Israel's Islamic Movement, was released Tuesday morning from Ramon Prison, after serving nine months for incitement to violence.
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He was convicted due to a sermon that he delivered in East Jerusalem’s Wadi Joz neighborhood in 2007.
Last week the police announced that they recommended prosecuting Salah again on suspicion of committing crimes of incitement to violence and terror, and support for and activity in an illegal association. His defense attorney, Omar Khamaisi, said police had questioned him under caution – meaning there was a chance of an indictment – due to posts he had made on social networks and declarations at various public events.
Specifically, during the questioning in December, the sheikh was asked about making statements such as “Al-Aqsa is in danger,” “The occupation will disappear some day” and “Freedom for Palestinian prisoners,” and for saying that the Islamic Movement was still alive and functioning.
Salah said after his release, in an interview to the Al-Shams radio station in Nazareth, that immediately after the morning prayer, he had been taken in a van by the Shin Bet security services and left alone at a bus stop in Kiryat Malakhi, located some 50 kilometers south of Tel Aviv. He said he boarded a bus going to Tel Aviv, and people there helped him to contact his family, with whom he was reunited at the Hassan Bek mosque in Jaffa.
“I don’t know who decided to do such a thing," he said about being dropped off by himself, "but it’s doesn’t show great wisdom.”
Khamaisi told Haaretz Tuesday that because Salah is well known, someone could have tried to harm him while he was alone and unsupervised.
In response, the Shin Bet said: “The prison authorities received information that many of Salah’s supporters were planning to show up at the prison entrance, and there was a fear that this would lead to disorderly conduct and clashes. Therefore it was decided to drive Salah north to Kiryat Malakhi and from there he would travel on public transportation as a free man, in the direction of his home.”
The statement added that there were policemen at the Kiryat Malakhi station, “who would have prevented any untoward incident.”
Salah told the radio station that before he was released, he received an order preventing him from visiting Jerusalem and leaving the country.
In November 2014 Israel's diplomatic-security cabinet declared the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel to be an illegal entity. Most of the institutions affiliated with the movement, including civil NGOs and organizations, were closed down. The declaration means that any property of the movement can be confiscated and any group or individuals belonging to the organization – or anyone providing it with a service or working on its behalf – will be seen as committing a crime punishable by a prison sentence.