An Israeli court has sentenced a leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel to 11 months in jail on charges of “incitement”.
Sheikh Raed Salah will have to report to an Israeli prison on November 11 as per the court sentencing instructions.
“If going to jail is the price we must pay for defending those principles, then I welcome it,” Saleh, the leader of the movement’s northen branch, told Al Jazeera from Jerusalem.
The cleric’s lawyer said that the court “has succumbed to political witch hunt against the Islamic movement in Israel”.
He told Al Jazeera that the move comes amid an already charged anti-Arab environment in Israel.
The court rejected the defence appeal in the case and sided with the state prosecutors in upholding an earlier lower court decision.
The state prosecution had originally demanded that the court sentenced Salah to a minimum of 16 months and a maximum of 42 months.
The case against Salah was initiated after a sermon he delivered in Jerusalem in 2007 in which he decried “Israeli racist policies in Jerusalem,” and demanded that the Israeli government end its ban on Muslims to worship freely at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Salah, during that sermon, also demanded an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Israeli police then banned him from praying at Al-Aqsa mosque, prompting Salah to pray and deliver his sermon in the Wadi al-Jouz neighbourhood, near occupied East Jerusalem.
Salah’s lawyer Omar Khamayseh said that his client “was not afraid of going to prison for something he believes in wholeheartedly, even though going to prison is not something he aspires to”.
“Sheikh Salah has been defending Muslims rights to worship and speaking out against Israel’s unjust treatment of Arab citizens in Israel as well as Palestinians in the occupied territories,” he said.
“The Israeli government is making him pay a price for his stances.”
Salah said he was determined to continue his activism despite the prison sentence.
“I will continue upholding and defending Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque even stronger than before, inside and outside my prison cell,” he said. Al Jazeera