The head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, was arrested in London on Tuesday evening. He spent the night in a prison cell, and is expected to be deported from the U.K.
Zahi Nujeidat, spokesperson for the northern branch of the movement, confirmed to the Haaretz news agency on Wednesday morning that Salah had been arrested at the hotel where we was staying after a speaking engagement in the U.K. city of Leicester.
Just a few hours earlier in Leicester, Salah was giving a lecture, in which he discussed the effect of the "Arab spring" on Palestinians. The event was attended by more than 500 people, and today he was due to speak at Westminster to attend the Palestine Solidarity Campaign event in parliament alongside Labor MPs Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Burden and Yasmin Qureshi.
Jewish leaders were outraged at the announcement that Salah was due to speak in the parliament and had asked for his slot to be cancelled. Mark Gardner, on behalf of the Jewish groups the Board of Deputies and the Community Security Trust, said: "We deplore those MPs and other public figures who promote this man and thereby undermine the Government's anti-extremism efforts."
On Saturday, Raed Salah landed at Heathrow Airport and passed immigration checks and border control checks despite a decision made last week by Home Secretary Theresa May to ban him from the country.
Salah's spokesman said he did not have problem entering the UK. "He presented his passport. He was asked only a couple of questions about the purpose of his visit," he said.
The British government banned Salah from entering the UK because of his radical views. He has served time in Israeli jails for assaulting a police officer and holding contact with a foreign agent. Salah also participated in the Gaza flotilla last year. Earlier this week, conservative MP Mike Freer accused him of "virulent anti-Semitism."
However, Nujeidat said that there is no explanation for the Islamic leader's arrest, but he believes that it is largely due to the Zionist lobby and members of the British Jewish community.
The movement's spokesman claimed that community members pressured government officials not to allow Salah into London for a speaking tour.
"There is no doubt that this is due to the Zionist lobby, and there is no legal or lawful reason for his arrest. We are following the developments in the coming hours, and have sent a lawyer to represent the sheik," the group's spokesman said.
Nujeidat added that based on the movement's assessment of the situation, British authorities will request the sheik's extradition, because there is no real reason for the arrest.
Meanwhile Palestinian journalist Adnan Hamdan backed Nujeidat's claims when he told Al Jazeera that "pro-Israeli elements and Zionist institutions managed to get a restraining order against Salah." He claimed the cleric was arrested in an "inhumane manner" in the middle of the night by British police. The reporter noted a deportation order was issued against Salah.
The Islamist leader was released from an Israeli prison last December after a five-month incarceration for insulting and attacking a police officer near the Temple Mount in February of 2007. The sheik was attending a rally held by the Islamic movement to protest repairs being done on the Mugrabi Gate.
Salah was initially sentenced to nine months in prison, but an appeal to the district court granted him a shortened sentence of five months.