Israeli court extends detention for Islamic cleric over ‘incitement’
TEL AVIV - An Israeli court on Thursday extended the detention of a firebrand Islamic cleric accused of inciting violence in connection with deadly tensions last month over a sensitive Jerusalem holy site.
Arab Israeli Raed Salah, a prominent member of a now-banned Islamist movement, was arrested on Tuesday.
The Rishon Lezion Justice court near Tel Aviv extended his remand to August 21.
Supporters in the courtroom stood and shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest) when the decision was announced, while around 25 people demonstrated outside in support.
Police told the court the allegations against Salah relate to a sermon he gave after a July attack that killed two policemen near Jerusalem's ultra-sensitive Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
Police alleged the sermon was "directly related to the murder of the two policemen and delivered in front of a large crowd."
Salah's lawyers and supporters say his sermons are always within the bounds of free speech and that he "stands against the murder of innocents."
They have called the preacher's arrest political intimidation and say it was intended to silence dissent.
Salah said in court that he had been threatened by Jewish prisoners.
"If something happens, my blood is going to be on (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu's hands," he said.
The 58-year-old is accused of inciting violence and terrorism as well as support for and participation in an illegal organisation.
His arrest came following his release from prison in January after serving a nine-month sentence on similar allegations.
His group, the radical northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, was outlawed in 2015 for incitement linked to the Haram al-Sharif, which includes the revered Al-Aqsa mosque and the golden-topped Dome of the Rock.
The site in Jerusalem's Old City is the third-holiest in Islam and the most sacred for Jews.
Violence erupted in and around the compound last month after three Arab Israelis shot dead two policemen on July 14 before being killed by security forces.
Israel responded by installing metal detectors at the entrance to the site, which the assailants had used as a launch site for the attack.
For nearly two weeks, worshippers refused to submit to the checks and staged mass prayers in the surrounding streets.
Ensuing protests and clashes left seven Palestinians dead, while three Israelis were fatally stabbed by a Palestinian assailant.
The crisis abated when Israel removed the detectors.
Central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the complex lies in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.
Palestinians fear Israel will gradually seek to assert further control over it, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said he is committed to the status quo.
Arab-Israelis are descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land following the creation of Israel in 1948.
They account for some 17.5 percent of the population of eight million and largely sympathise with the Palestinian cause.