Raed Salah, leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, returned to Israel Monday evening after 10 months in the UK, during which he was arrested for entering the country illegally.
Some 270 Islamic Movement members greeted Salah at Ben Gurion Airport with chants of "Allahu Akbar (Allah is great)." Upon his arrival, Salah was questioned briefly by police but was released after a few minutes.
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Speaking before his supporters at the airport, Salah said: "All of the Zionists' attempts have failed. I traveled to Britain and carried on my shoulders the al-Aqsa plight and the Palestinian people's dream of a country of their own."
He added, "I returned like any other Palestinian soldier. The Zionists put pressure to get me deported from Britain but I resisted."
Salah also recounted the story of his arrest. "A few officers broke into my hotel room and I didn't know what was going on. After they arrested me, they tried to scare me into agreeing to be deported.
"I don't know why I was banned from Jerusalem. I was in Britain and did nothing in Israel, and I find this decision utterly bizarre."
Salah left the UK a free man after he won an appeal against the decision by British Home Secretary Theresa May to deport him under a claim he posed a threat to the public.
Among those who welcomed Salah back were Knesset members Talab El-Sana (United Arab List-Ta'al) and Jamal Zahalka (National Democratic Assembly). Mohammed Zeidan, head of the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, also greeted Salah at the airport.
Hundreds greet Salah at BG Airport (Photo: Moti Kimhi)
Zahi Nujeidat, spokesman for the Islamic Movement's northern branch told Ynet, "The legal battle (in Britain) was rough, but he eventually triumphed."
MK El-Sana said, "The Arab public is rejoicing in Salah's victory after Israel and Britain tried to deport and arrest him. The British fell into the Israeli trap. They did Israel's dirty work. But the sheikh stood up to them and won."
Salah's mother said what pleased her most was the fact that her son "won in court. This is a victory for the entire Arab and Palestinian public. I visited my son twice while he was in Britain, and I was happy to see that he was fighting for everyone. I didn't worry when he was under arrest or up for deportation, because I knew he would win."
Meanwhile, hundreds of Umm al-Fahm residents were preparing to greet Salah. On Wednesday the Arab-Israeli city is expected to officially celebrate his return home.
In June Salah was arrested for entering Britain despite a travel ban over his extremist views. He was released three weeks later. The British Home Office sought his deportation because he had apparently concealed his identity while entering the country.
Salah's appeal against the decision to deport him was upheld last week by Britain's Upper Immigration Tribunal, which ruled that the decision to arrest him and to carry out a deportation order against him was improper and unnecessary.
The High Court ruled that since the Islamic Movement leader was not given "proper and sufficient reasons" for his arrest until the third day of his detention, he should receive compensation for that period.
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