The Israel Prison Service (IPS) released Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, on Tuesday morning after he served a nine-month sentence after being accused of “incitement.”
Salah’s lawyer Khalid Zabarqa said that IPS had initially only informed him that Salah would be released, but withheld the details on the precise location and time.
“The Israeli government is behaving like a gang, not like a government,” said Deputy Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel Sheikh Kamal al-Khatib in reaction to Salah’s imprisonment and release, adding that scores of Sheikh Salah’s supporters had traveled to Nafha prison in southern Israel from where they expected him to be released, only to be informed that he wasn’t there.
Al-Khatib said the group then traveled further north to the Beersheba prison complex, but Salah was not there either.
Finally they were informed at 9:30 a.m. that Salah had been released three hours prior at a bus station near Kiryat Malakhi and that Salah took a bus from there to Tel Aviv.
The Hamas movement released a statement Tuesday, saying they congratulated Salah on his release, “after unjustly spending nine months in the jails of occupation.”
The movement said that Salah’s detention “confirms the failure of the occupation in promoting its plans against the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” and that they considered his release “a victory of the will of worshipers and all defenders of Jerusalem City and Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Salah turned himself in to Israeli authorities in May 2016 to serve a nine-month sentence for “inciting violence and terrorism” in a speech he delivered in Jerusalem ten years earlier.
During his imprisonment, Salah was interrogated a number of times, and also launched a hunger strikein protest of being mistreated and held in solitary confinement.
Prisoners solidarity network Samidoun had also reported that Salah had been denied access to books given to him by visiting family members, and denied visits by prominent personalities, including Knesset member and leader of the Balad party Jamal Zahalka.
The Islamic Movement’s northern branch, led by Salah, has been a vocal critic of Israeli activity at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem.
In October, Israeli forces raided and closed several institutions in northern Israel for allegedly being affiliated with the Islamic Movement, reportedly in response to an order issued in 2015 by former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon that outlawed the northern branch of the movement and called for a ban on all of the movement’s activities.