Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the northern faction of the Islamic Movement, arrived Sunday morning at the Kishon Detention Center to begin his prison sentence.
About 200 supporters and activists came to the scene to express their support for Salah against what they called the "political persecution" which is being waged against him.
Salah was sentenced to 28 months in prison by the Haifa Magistrate's Court in February for inciting terrorism. Last month, the Haifa District Court rejected Salah's appeal against his conviction.
The panel of judges, which included the president of the district court, Justice Dr. Ron Shapira, Justice Bettina Tauber and Justice Tamar Perry, ordered the beginning of his sentence on August 16. "The sentence imposed on the appellant is appropriate and there is no reason to intervene," the judges stated in their decision.
"This case is not about restricting freedom of expression but about preventing and banning incitement and supporting a terrorist organization," the judges continued. "The defendant has the right, like everyone else, to criticize the government and its leader. However, as a person, and especially as a leader in his community, he does not have the right to incite and support illegal acts of terrorism."
They added that "the leader is aware that the public which follows him learns from his statements, as well as from his silence, about his support for a criminal act. Hence his responsibility, whether he explicitly said words of support or remained silent, when he turned a blind eye and supported the act."
Salah was convicted last November for supporting a banned organization – the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel – and was later convicted of incitement to terrorism, over his public support for a July 2017 terror attack on the Temple Mount that left two Israeli border police dead.
Salah has been arrested by Israel several times in the past on charges of incitement. The radical cleric served a nine-month jail sentence after being convicted of encouraging violent attacks and inciting racism in a 2007 sermon.
He has in the past labeled Israeli leaders “terrorists” and “enemies of Allah” in a speech to Muslims in Be’er Sheva, and was also jailed for five months in 2010 for spitting at an Israeli police officer.
The Israeli government outlawed the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, which Salah heads, in November of 2015.