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Influential Palestinian cleric freed from Israeli jail after 17 months behind bars

A photo by Palestinian media shows Salah, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and former head of the northern Islamic Movement, receiving hero welcome following release from a prison in Israel.

Palestinian political and religious leader Sheikh Raed Salah has been released from a prison in Israel after serving 17 months in solitary confinement.

Born in 1958, Salah is one of the most influential Palestinian figures in the occupied Palestinian territories. He was released from Megiddo prison on Monday morning, just north of his hometown of Umm al-Fahm, southwest of Nazareth city, local Palestinian media reported.

Scores of Palestinian citizens crowded outside the jail to escort the Palestinian citizen of Israel to his hometown in a procession of cars.

His lawyer accused Israel of prosecuting Salah for his religious and national worldview, and not because of any criminal offence, saying, “It is a feeling mixed between pain and happiness. There is a lot of pain – he underwent a lot of injustice. He paid a high price out of his life because of the injustice he was exposed to by Israel.” 

“The Sheikh’s arrest, his conviction and his file were all unjust. He was detained and convicted based on his freedom of speech and opinion and his faith – his religion,” said the lawyer.

Salah has been banned from travelling outside for ‘security’ reasons.

In August 2017, Salah was detained and indicted for incitement over his criticism of the deployment of metal detectors at the entrances leading to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in al-Quds. He spent 11 months behind bars without charge before he was released and placed under restrictive house arrest, including wearing an ankle monitor, for a period of two years while his trial proceeded.

In August 2020, Salah was re-arrested and sentenced to 28 months in prison. His arrest came amid widespread Palestinian protests, including in Israel, against Israeli air raids on the besieged Gaza Strip, crackdowns by Israeli forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, and protests against attempts to forcibly displace Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied East al-Quds.


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