Photo Credit: Meir Vaknin / Flash 90
Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, arrives for a court hearing in Haifa on February 10, 2020.

Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the radical Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel was sentenced Monday morning to 28 months in prison by the Haifa Magistrates Court.

The Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel was banned by Israel in 2015 over its ties to terrorist organizations and incitement to lethal violence.

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The cleric, age 61, was convicted on a charge of supporting an outlawed organization, and for incitement to terror. Salah argued in court that his views are religious opinions rooted in the Qur’an and said they do not constitute a direct call to violence.

The conviction was handed down in connection with his support for a July 2017 terrorist attack at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem by three Israeli Arab residents of Umm al-Fahm, where Salah once served as Mayor. Two Israeli Border Guard Police officers were killed in the attack. The three terrorists were eliminated as well, and at their funeral, Salah praised them as “righteous” shaheedim, or martyrs.

Eleven months of the sentence was eliminated for time served, leaving 17 months to be served. Salah was handed an 18-month suspended sentence as well, which is to immediately take effect for service if the cleric is convicted again.

He was serving a suspended sentence for a previous conviction for incitement, support for terrorism and public disturbance at the time of the current conviction, and had just been released from prison in 2017 after having served a nine month sentence for incitement to violence and racism.

Salah is a firebrand radical Islamist cleric who repeatedly exhorts his followers to “protect” the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, warning that Israel is either about to destroy it or has plans to destroy it.

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Among the high profile Israeli Arab lawmakers who were present at the court to show support for Salah was Arab Joint List MK Heba Yazbak, who had just won a court case allowing her to run as a candidate in the upcoming March 2 national elections despite having praised terrorist child-killer Samir Kuntar as a “warrior Shaheed” in a 2015 Facebook post.

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