The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Thursday convicted Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement's northern faction, of taking part in riots and in assaulting a policeman in order to disrupt his work. His sentence will be delivered on December 24.
The incident took place on February 2007, near Jerusalem's Dung Gate. Salah, together with four other Israeli Arabs, was accused of rioting in protest of excavations conducted near Mugrabi Gate. At a certain stage he spit in the face of a Border Guard officer stationed in the area, saying, "You are racists and murderers, you have no respect."
Salah and his friends also tried to enter the excavation area while cursing, shouting and pushing their way in.
According to the indictment, "The police stood in a row in order to prevent a break-in. The defendant approached one of the policemen, assaulted him in the middle of his work, spat in his face and shouted, 'You are racists, murderers, you have no respect.'"
Judge Yitzhak Shimoni said that he had found "reliable testimonies from the police testifying to what happened, which match images taken by a security camera in the area, as well as images of the event received from police cameras regularly installed on the Temple Mount."
Defense counsel: Court has no authority
The judge added, "There is no doubt that the policeman felt the warm and ugly spit in his face." He said that Salah had taken advantage of the stage given to him in the courtroom in order to express his political opinions.
"The defendant stated that an Israeli crime was taking place on the Temple Mount, and his representatives claimed that the crime being done was the works at the al-Aqsa Mosque and that the Israeli court had no authority on the matter."
The judge noted that the excavation works in the area were ordered by the city engineer for security reasons.
Salah's lawyer, Attorney Khaled Azbarga, said upon leaving the courtroom that "Sheikh Salah accuses the Israeli establishment of committing a crime against the al-Aqsa Mosque. In an attempt to cover the real crime, the court accuses Salah of other crimes.
"The court has no authority to rule on any matter related to the al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem. This is the Muslims' basic right and the Jews have no right there. The court ignored the sentiments of all Muslims, but we didn't expect anything else."
Addressing the incident in the past, Salah said, "I was asked in my interrogation whether I had spat in the policeman's face, and I say: I did not spit at the policeman. I spit at the evil which is being done here, and I call on anyone seeing it to spit too."