Israeli court clears Islamic cleric on rioting charge
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Last Updated: Wednesday, May 12, 2010, 00:35
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 appealing.

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.


First Published: Wednesday, May 12, 2010, 00:35

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