The head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, appeared in the Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday to appeal the prison sentence he received for attacking a policeman in February 2007. Salah was accompanied by Knesset members Hanin Zoabi (Balad), Jamal Zahalka (Balad) and Talab el-Sana (United Arab List-Ta'al).
In January, the Jerusalem Magistrates Court handed down a sentence of nine months behind bars for Salah, indicted for disorderly conduct and attacking a police officer. In addition, he was given six months suspended sentence and was ordered to pay compensation of NIS 7,500.
Judge Yitzhak Shimoni criticized Salah's behavior during the trial, noting that he had laughed when the police officer had testified. Salah rejected the sentence, and said he would continue to work to "end the occupation of Al-Aqsa."
"I am here because I believe it is everyone's right to demonstrate," Zoabi said. "I don't believe (Salah) spat at the policeman, it's a kind of political persecution. The police's task is to defend demonstrators, but when the demonstrators are Arab, the police change their mission. Salah said he has no faith in the court, and unfortunately, he is right."
Salah in court (Photo: Noam Moskowitz)
Zoabi also spoke about the security measures put in place for her protection following the IDF raid on the Gaza flotilla vessel, the Marmara, in which she was also a passenger.
"It limits the sense of privacy and reduces the sense of day-to-day security," she said. "I am not afraid, but apparently the authorities have information about danger to my life. I choose to keep myself busy with daily tasks in the Knesset concerning the investigation committee (into the flotilla affair) whose sole purpose is to avoid an international investigation. I will not cooperate with the committee, if they call me."
El-Sana also said the trial against Salah was a form of political persecution.
"He has not threatened anyone and is in fact a victim of violence," he said. "I am against spitting, but I don't think that in this case he should be tried. In Gush Katif they threatened and beat policemen, but they were allowed to celebrate. If your name is Raed Salah, you'll be found guilty and sit in jail, but if your name is Moti, you won't even have any indictment submitted against you."
During the trial, some 15 people demonstrated outside the court in support of Salah, carrying banners in Hebrew and English with the words, "We are all with Raed Salah." Balad Chairman Jamal Zahalka said he hoped the Regional Court would change the political sentence handed down by the Magistrates Court.
"Once, a woman spat at (former President) Ezer Weizman, and what did they do?" he said. "They didn't submit any indictment against her. (Salah's) sentence is political, in every sense."