Israeli NGO slams state for limiting charges against Lod imam

The two-count indictment doesn’t reflect Sheikh Albaz’s “frequent, ongoing and extremely public” incitement to terror, says Regavim.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The state prosecution service is acting negligently in indicting the imam of Lod on only two counts of incitement and hate speech, a group that agitates for protection of the rule of law charged Sunday.

Sheikh Yousef Albaz was charged Thursday with inciting violence against police and threatening a member of the Lod municipality in two videos he had posted online during the Arab riots in his city in May.

Albaz posted a clip from a movie showing the murder of two police officers with the caption, “The best way to deal with injustice.” And he blamed Deputy Mayor Yossi Harush for supposedly provoking the riots, saying, “With regards to the war that you wage against us… we promise you, we are responsible enough to make you understand that we will freely give up our souls for the goal of educating you and ending your bullying.”

The rioting, which spread to other mixed Arab-Jewish cities, came in the midst of a flare-up between Hamas and Israel. A state of emergency was declared and Border Police were brought in to quell the violence, which ended with two deaths (one Arab), many injuries and millions of shekels’ worth of damage to Jewish property, including synagogues, homes and cars.

Those two counts do not reflect the scope or seriousness of the imam’s actions, says the Regavim Movement.

“The watered-down indictment is a display of prosecutorial negligence,” said the group’s director general, Meir Deutsch. “It doesn’t take a specialized cyber unit to find explicit incitement to commit acts of violence, treasonous statements, or declarations by Albaz that he is a proud member of the Northern Branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, an outlawed organization, on Albaz’s Facebook page.

“Albaz all but admits to being a member of a terrorist organization. After years of incessant incitement by Albaz, is this all the State’s Attorney’s special Cyber Unit could come up with?”

The pro-Zionist organization filed a detailed police complaint against the 63-year-old cleric back in May, including Facebook posts from the past year which prominently featured hate-filled incitement. As soon as the indictment was publicized, Regavim’s legal department sent a formal request to the State’s Attorney to demand its correction on the basis of the evidence the group had provided.

This included statements in which Albaz had called Israel an “enemy state” and said that “anyone who believes in coexistence must be banished from among us because they will be a dagger in our backs.”

During the height of the rioting, the letter of complaint continued, he gave a speech in the main mosque of Lod saying that his city was ruled by “a gang of terrorists … a gang of criminals.”

The Arab Desk of the Zionist watchdog group Im Tirtzu was also very involved in exposing the imam’s aggressive statements. Similarly, the CEO of right-wing organization Ad Kan, which had also presented evidence against the sheikh, backed up the call to expand the case against Albaz.

The imam’s mosque “is a major incitement center. Violent riots are coming out of it, means of attack are being stored there, and the place serves as a hotbed for terrorism against the Jews in Lod,” Gilad Ach said. “We hope that the indictment against the sheikh will include all his actions and not just a single case.”