Israel releases top Islamic leader
Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the Islamic Movement's Northern Branch in Israel, was released from prison Sunday morning, a day ahead of his scheduled release.
Salah is the former mayor of the Israeli- Arab city of Um al Fahm and a large festival in honor of his release will be held in the town's soccer stadium on Monday.
On Friday, Islamic Movement sources said they feared Salah would be released without prior warning, to thwart celebration preparations.
Salah was arrested in June 2003 after serving two-thirds of his sentence, on the condition that he would not enter Jerusalem in the coming four months.
According to HaAretz, Salah and four top Northern Branch officials were charged with membership in a "terrorist organization", as well as money-laundering, conspiracy, performing a service for an illegal organization, falsifying official documents and providing information to the enemy. Salah was accused of "anti-state activities," including funneling cash to Hamas.
Israel's Shin Bet security service initially claimed that Salah was in touch with foreign agents as well as with Iran, but these charges were not brought against him.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)