Three and a half years after he assaulted a police officer and spat in his face, head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement Sheikh Raed Salah reported on Sunday to Ayalon Prison, where he will serve a five-month sentence.
Salah was escorted to the prison by about 100 supporters, including Arab Knesset members and Tali Fahima, who wore a kaffiyah (Arab square cotton headkerchief) and carried a Palestinian flag.
Salah was scheduled to show up in court at 10 am and indeed showed up at the prison gate at 9:55 am. Like all other prisoners, he will receive supplies to last him the duration of his prison sentence, including toiletries, blankets, and towels. He will also speak with various prison officials, including the intelligence officer, a social worker, and others.
Israel Prison Services (IPS) have not been put on special alert for Salah's arrival. However, it was decided that he will be jailed alone in a cell in the prison's separation wing, typically used for dangerous criminals such as the heads of crime families.
The IPS said that should Salah "not make problems" during his prison term, he will receive benefits granted to prisoners, such as family visitation rights, use of a cellular phone, the option to make purchases from the prison canteen, as well as use of the public phone in the ward.
Salah escorted by supporters on his way to jail (Photo: Avi Moalem)
Two weeks ago, Jerusalem District Court shortened the original sentence handed down to Salah from nine months to five months.
In the explanation of the sentence, the justices wrote, "The spitting did not only offend the policeman personally, but it was an affront to the authority of policemen in general. There is no connection between his actions and the exercise of freedom of expression and freedom to protest."
The justices added that Salah did not express regret over his actions and did not apologize to the assaulted policeman. They also noted that since he has additional security offenses against him since 2005, the overall picture necessitates a prison sentence.
However, they ruled, "It seems as though the nine-month ruling is more stringent than necessary." Salah's legal representatives asked that the sentence be postponed until after the month of Ramadan, but their request was rejected.
The said incident took place in February 2007 near Dung Gate in Jerusalem. Salah, together with four other Arab Israelis, was indicted for rioting during a protest against digs being carried out near the Temple Mount.
He spat in the face of a Border Guard officer on the site while shouting at him, "You are racist murderers. You have no dignity." An indictment was filed against him in the same month as the incident.
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook