Israeli Court Extends Detention of Imam Suspected of Incitement

The arrest of the imam of the Great Mosque in Lod followed a speech he delivered last week at a conference in Lod about recent events at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Albaz at a confrence about Al-Aqsa in Lod, April 2022.
Albaz at a confrence about Al-Aqsa in Lod, April 2022.Credit: Ran Shimoni
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

A Jerusalem court extended by three days the detention of the imam of the Great Mosque in Lod, Sheikh Yusuf Albaz, who was arrested Saturday on suspicion of incitement and identifying with acts of terror.

The arrest followed a speech Albaz delivered last week at a conference in Lod about recent events at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque. The police requested an extension of his arrest by eight days.

The police representative told the judge that Albaz is considered to be increasingly dangerous, and that there is another indictment against him for incitement and violent offenses.

Sheikh Yusuf Albaz at Ramle Magistrate's Court last year.Credit: Moti Milrod

Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Zion Saharay partially accepted his claim, saying that the act attributed to Albaz “in light of the indictment pending against him, when added to the period in which we find ourselves and the events that are now taking place, constitutes a reason for detention due to the fact that he is dangerous.”

Attorney Khaled Azbarga, who is representing Albaz, called the detention persecution. “We have a strong suspicion that behind this investigation lie extraneous and political considerations… This is a case of freedom of expression.”

At last week’s conference, Albaz expressed anger at Israel for interfering at Al-Aqsa Mosque and criticized the security forces’ use of weapons and stun grenades at the site, which is the third-holiest site in Islam. During the month of Ramadan, the mosque area has been the scene of clashes between Muslim worshipers and Israeli security forces after a minority of worshipers threw stones and set off fireworks. The mosque is situated on the compound known as the Temple Mount to Jews and Haram al-Sharif to Muslims.

Azbarga told Haaretz that “they took 28 seconds from the speech and claimed that these words constitute identification with an act of violence. What do they want, for us to say that the police are doing great?”

He added that Albaz “thinks that the young men in the Al-Aqsa Mosque were defending themselves, and that what the police did were illegal acts – they fired rubber bullets and wounded people.”

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