From UK prison, Palestinian leader Sheikh Raed Salah says he will fight deportation

Israeli authorities have attempted to silence Sheikh Raed Salah (center) through physical violence, movement restrictions and jail time. (Meged Gozani/

Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, has vowed to fight deportation from the United Kingdom, in a message sent through an emissary from the Colnbrook detention center near London’s Heathrow Airport, where Salah is currently being held.

Salah was arrested by UK authorities on charges of entering the country illegally. The Sheikh who is widely popular among Palestinians, especially among Palestinian citizens of Israel of whom he is one, had traveled to the UK to address public meetings, including ones attended by members of parliament.

The message from Salah was carried by Dr. Ibrahim Hamami a well-known London-based Palestinian activist who sent it via email in Arabic to his distribution list. A copy was received by The Electronic Intifada and translated:

Sheikh Raed Salah’s messages from inside the detention center

Less than two hours ago, and after lengthy and difficult procedures, and with God’s assistance, I was able to be with Sheikh Raed Salah inside Colnbrook Detention Centre near London’s Heathrow Airport, the first such visit since his political and arbitrary detention. The Sheikh, may God protect him, asked us to carry the following message:

First: Israel carries the full responsibility for his detention in the United Kingdom;

Second: He will not yield voluntarily to the deportation and exclusion decision. He has committed no crime and will not allow his name to be sullied. He will pursue the legal course as far as possible even if he must remain in jail.

Third: He is in the right, and not in a position of defendant and prosecution. Indeed he is the target of attack and accusation.

During the visit, Sheikh Raed Salah raised our spirits with his famous laugh and with his strength and steadfastness and assured that as far as he was concerned prison was a form of relaxation.

All that remains to say is that the judges agreed to hear an appeal from the Sheikh’s lawyers, and the Sheikh’s legal team will meet with him in the morning to discuss the next legal steps.

Dr. Ibrahim Hamami

(original Arabic text is at the end of this post)

Reached by telephone this evening, Hamami told The Electronic Intifada that Salah had been given until 6 July to lodge an appeal against his deportation, and would also be able to seek release on bail.

Hamami said that two other people joined him in the visit to see Salah at Colnbrook, which lasted approximately one hour, one of the others being Dr. Hafiz al-Karmi, chair of the Palestinian Forum of Britain which was sponsored the lecture Salah was due to give this coming Saturday.

Hamami also said that Brent Town Hall in London, where the event was due to take place, had canceled the booking, an act Hamami interpreted as an added form of political pressure.

“Not conducive to the public good”

Jonathan Cook reports in The National:

[Salah’s] arrest came as he was preparing to address a meeting yesterday in the British parliament attended by several MPs.

Sheikh Salah arrived in Britain on Saturday, clearing border checks, despite a reported exclusion order issued by the British home secretary, Theresa May, last week.

Yesterday, Mrs May said steps were being taken to remove Sheikh Salah from Britain. “A full investigation is now taking place into how he was able to enter,” she said.

The Home Office said his presence was “not conducive to the public good”.The government’s hard line against Sheikh Salah follows a campaign by pro-Israel groups in Britain, backed by right-wing newspapers, alleging he had a history of making anti-Semitic statements.

Sheikh Salah, who has denied the remarks, was reported to be planning to sue the newspapers over their reports. His lawyer, Farooq Bajwa, said Mr Salah hoped to fight his deportation, pointing out that he had made “no attempt” to conceal his identity or lie about the purpose of his visit.

Sheikh Salah is a controversial figure among Israeli Jews. He has been arrested several times and jailed twice, for contacting a foreign agent and spitting at a policeman.

Pressure from British Zionist groups

Cook adds that the invitation to Salah to speak in the UK, including in the parliament building “had provoked fierce criticism from Jewish groups and some British politicians. After criticism from the Board of Deputies, the main representative body for British Jews, officials from the opposition Labour party had urged three of its MPs not to attend.”

Despite the wild exaggerations about Salah in the British press, Cook points out that even Israel has never accused Salah of violence:

Hassan Jabareen, the director of the Adalah centre for Israel’s Arab minority, said Sheikh Salah had never been accused of advocating or participating in armed struggle, and had not been charged with incitement or anti-Semitism. “Israel is one of the most security-obsessed countries in the world. If it believed he was a threat of any kind, he would be under administrative detention, or at the very least subject to a travel ban.”

Author and journalist Ben White, who was due to speak along with Salah at the Saturday lecture noted the irony of Salah’s arrest when the UK has previously been complicit in helping Israeli officials and military officers evade arrest in connection with war crimes. In comments made to The Guardian White said:

The same government that sent police to arrest a Palestinian civil society leader from his hotel bedroom is changing UK legislation explicitly to facilitate the entry of accused Israeli war criminals.

Allegations of Israeli assassination attempt.

Salah also traveled aboard the Mavi Marmara during last year’s Gaza Freedom Flotilla. He has said publicly that he believes Israeli commandos who attacked the ship killing nine people intended to assassinate him but killed a Turkish engineer who resembled him by mistake.

Original Arabic text of Ibrahim Hamami’s email

رسائل الشيخ رائد صلاح من داخل مركز احتجازه

قبل أقل من ساعتين، وبعد اجراءات مطولة ومعقدة، قدر الله سبحانه وتعالى أن أكون مع الشيخ رائد صلاح في مركز كولبروك للاحتجاز قرب مطار هيثرو في لندن في زيارة هي الأولى بعد احتجازه السياسي التعسفي، وقد حملنا الشيخ حفظه الله الرسائل التالية:

أولا: أنه يحمّل المؤسسة الاسرائيلية المسؤولية عن توقيفه في بريطانيا

ثانياً: أنه لن يرضخ لقرار الابعاد والترحيل طواعية، فهو لم يرتكب جرماً ولن يقبل أن يلطخ اسمه، وبأنه سيذهب حتى آخر المشوار في الاجراءات القانونية، حتى لواضطر للبقاء في السجن

ثالثاً: أنه صاحب حق وليس في موقف الدفاع والاتهام، بل هو في موقع الهجوم وهو من يتهم

الشيخ رائد صلاح وخلال الزيارة رفع من معنوياتنا بضحكته الشهيرة وبقوته وثباته، وأكد أن السجن بالنسبة له خلوة واستراحة بقي أن نقول أن القضاء وافق على طلب الاسئناف المقدم من محامي الشيخ، وسيلتقي الفريق القانوني معه صباح الغد لبحث الخطوات القانونية القادمة

د. إبراهيم حمّامي