Leader of the Islamic Movement’s northern faction Sheikh Raed Salah was convicted by an Israeli court of assaulting an Israeli border guard during the thick of diplomatic and local tension of Israel’s decision to begin excavations near the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Salah was charged with spitting in the face of the border guards after they physically barred him from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
At the time, the prominent Muslim leader and outspoken activist for the protection of Al-Aqsa was the target of then Israeli minister of strategic affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, who called for the imprisonment of the sheikh, as did then Israeli minister of interior security, Avi Dechter, former head of the Shin Bet interior intelligence, who vowed to see the man in jail.
Salah was convicted in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, his sentence will be delivered on December 24, Israeli media reported.
Tensions at the start of the excavations were so high, with rumors that Israeli extremist groups had succeeded in pushing forward a program to demolish Al-Aqsa and replace it with a third Jewish Temple, that at least 25 Jordanian lawmakers signed a petition urging the government to officially declare that Israel had “violated” the peace treaty concluded between the two countries in 1994 by going ahead with excavations.
Salah himself has accused Israeli leaders and media of incitement, saying he was being used as a scapegoat in order to deter Palestinians from rising to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
In September and October extremist religious groups in Israel attempted to break into the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the high Jewish holidays.
An Israeli news sources quoted Judge Yitzhak Shimoni said as saying he 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.”