The Nazareth Magistrate's Court has sentenced Sheikh
Nazem Abu Salim Scapa to three years in prison and 18 months probation for incitement to violence and terror and supporting terror organizations.
The court said Scapa's Friday sermons at the Shihab al-Din mosque in the city inspired two terror cells to attack Jews and Christians. One of the gangs has also been charged with murdering cab driver Efim Weinstein in 2009.
Scapa, 47, has served as the imam of the Shihab al-Din mosque for the past 15 years, but he delivered sermons in other mosques as well – including the al-Aqsa mosque
in Jerusalem's Old City. He was arrested in November 2010.
Scapa in court (Photo: alarab.net)
"This is one of the more serious cases ever discussed in Israel's courts," said Judge Lily Young-Gefer on Tuesday. "Had the defendant's activity not been stopped his followers' terrorist activity would have expanded further."
Before the hearing, Scapa read out a Koran verse which says God determines man's destiny.
His attorney, Rafi Masalha, said the sentence was too harsh and that the whole affair had been blown over proportion.
Sheikh's house in Nazareth (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yeshuv)
"No one came forward and said they committed acts because of the Sheikh's statements. His statements are subject to interpretation and the prosecution had chosen to interpret them in the most extreme way. There is no incitement to violence, quite the contrary."
Prosecutor Attorney Yael Kochavi expressed satisfaction over the verdict and said the case set a precedent in terms of the severity of the act and the scope of incitement.
In April, Judge Young-Gefer mentioned that one of Scapa's sermons called for "violent acts of vengeance (beheadings) against those who have dishonored the prophet (Muhammad). This was no abstract call to annihilate the heretics, but a direct call for violence against anyone who dishonors the prophet and Muslims."
The judge said the imam's publications encouraged the "highest and most dangerous level" of violence. Scapa urged his followers to "slaughter and fight," according to Young-Gefer. "His statements constituted a clear call to commit murder."