Israel Court releases Imam detained over anti-occupation activism; now under restrictive conditions

Sheikh Yousef al-Baz (Twitter)

Middle East Monitor  /  September 23, 2022

The Israeli Supreme Court approved, on Thursday, the appeal filed by the defence committee for Palestinian citizen of Israel, Sheikh Yousef al-Baz, 64, from the city of Lod and ordered to place him under restrictive conditions.

The Supreme Court returned Al-Baz’s case file to the Israeli District Court in Lod to determine the conditions for his release by electronic registration.

On 10 August, the Lod District Court extended Sheikh Al-Baz’s detention until the completion of judicial procedures against him.

Al-Baz was detained on 17 June over claims of incitement on social media, referring to his posts published during the Israeli offensive on Gaza in May last year, when thousands of Palestinians in Israel took to the streets in solidarity with the besieged enclave.

“I suggest that you stop your bullies, because your provocation will take us back [to the streets] and you will pay the price for these actions,” Al-Baz wrote on Facebook, allegedly addressing Lod (Lydd) Deputy Mayor, Yossi Harush, after the violent Israeli crackdown on the city’s residents.

“And, as for the war you are threatening us with, Yossi Harush, we promise you that we will easily give up our souls in order to teach you to stop your bullying,” he continued.

Footage of Al-Baz addressing Palestinian citizens of Israel accusing Israeli Police of carrying out “dozens of incidents of slaughter” and vowing that Israel will “exit the land” before the Palestinians do, were also referenced.

Al-Baz served as Imam of Al-Omari Great Mosque in Lod from 1991 to 2018, and still delivers speeches in the mosque and other mosques across Israel.

Commenting on his posts, the 62-year-old said: “That’s my Facebook. I am responsible for it and I stand behind every word that I posted,” stressing that criticizing the Israeli occupation is “not incitement”.

According to Israeli media, he was not arrested during the protest in May because of fear that this would have fuelled unrest on the streets.