Jerusalem: An Israeli court on Tuesday declared a
leading Islamic cleric not guilty of rioting though he still
faces possible jail time on other charges.
The Jerusalem District Court declared Sheikh Raed Salah,
the head of the Israeli Islamic Movement`s radical wing,
innocent of a charge that in March 2007, he took part "with
dozens of others, in an illegal assembly with intent to commit
a breach of the peace."
The charge sheet said that Salah, an Israeli citizen, led
a demonstration against Israeli public works near Jerusalem`s
ultra-sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound and encouraged
protesters "to upset public order."
The compound, in the walled Old City, houses sites
revered by Muslims and Jews and has been a flashpoint for many
clashes between them.
Prosecutors said Salah waved the flag of Syria, with
which Israel is technically in a state of war, and proclaimed
it would fly alongside the Palestinian flag in Jerusalem.
Israel captured Arab east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle
East war and annexed it shortly afterwards. Although the
Palestinians want the area for the capital of their future
state, Israel claims sovereignty over both parts of the city.
Salah`s deputy, Sheikh Kamel Khatib, told AFP that the
flag was waved by protesters against Israel`s occupation of
the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 war.
"It was other activists, demanding the return of the
Golan to Syria," he said.
Judge Shimon Feinberg ruled that police evidence in the
case was unsound.
"There were fundamental discrepancies between the
testimonies of police officers," he wrote. "In addition, the
defence presented video footage showing the demonstration,
which proves inaccuracies in the charge sheet."
In January Salah was sentenced to nine months in prison
for assaulting a policeman during Palestinian protests in east
Jerusalem. He is currently free while his lawyers are
He is yet to stand trial on charges of preaching an
anti-Semitic sermon and obstructing police officers.
Salah is one of Israel`s nearly 1.3 million Arab
citizens, Palestinians who remained in the Jewish state after
its creation in 1948, and their descendants.
The number does not include the 270,000 Palestinian
residents of Jerusalem who are not Israeli citizens.