Hamas-linked Sheikh receives hero’s welcome release from Israeli prison

After calling on his supporters to spill blood for Al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Raed Salah was imprisoned for 17 months.

By World Israel News Staff

An Islamic preacher with rumored ties to Hamas received a hero’s welcome in his hometown in northern Israel on Monday after serving a 17-month sentence for sermons encouraging terrorism and inciting violence.

In a video that went viral on social media, Sheikh Raed Salah is seen waving to supporters from the sunroof of a slow-moving car to celebratory fireworks and chanting from his supporters in Umm El-Fahm.

Many of those who gathered to welcome him held flags associated with Islamic Movement in Israel. Salah is the head of the northern branch of the movement, which was banned by the Israeli government for its links to terror.

In 2019, Salah was convicted of incitement after praising the killers of two Border Police officers slain in a Jerusalem attack. His case reached the Israeli Supreme Court, where he tried to argue that his sermons encouraging followers to spill blood in order to redeem Al-Aqsa mosque fell under the category of free speech.

Israel’s highest court disagreed, explaining in their ruling that Salah’s words went beyond the boundaries of political commentary.

“This case is not about restricting freedom of expression, but about preventing and prohibiting incitement and supporting a terrorist organization,” wrote Justices Ron Shapira, Batina Tauber and Tamar Neot Perry at the time of the ruling.

“The defendant has the right, like everyone else, to criticize the government and its leader. However, as a person, and especially as a leader in his community, he does not have the right to incite and support illegal acts of terrorism.”

Before beginning his prison sentence in August 2020, Salah told the Middle East Eye that he was the victim of inaccurate translation from Arabic and that the Israeli government had misinterpreted Palestinian folklore and Quranic verses as incitement, effectively “criminalizing” the material.

The Gaza-based terror group celebrated Salah’s release in a statement on Monday, referring to him as “a symbol of struggle and sacrifice in our Palestinian people.”

Channel 14 reported that past investigations found Salah was closely linked to a dubious Islamic charity, which revealed to be a front for raising funds for Hamas.