Security was heavy outside the court on Tuesday as dozens of the activists’ supporters demonstrated against the case.

Salah and other defendants have also been accused of contact with a foreign agent, membership in a “terrorist” organisation, money laundering and conspiracy to deliver information to the enemy. 

The Islamic Movement leader, whose organisation caters for the nearly 1.1 million Palestinians allowed to live in Israel, has denied all the charges. 

Salah said he and other activists were victims of religious persecution.

“We are being hounded because of our faith,” he told reporters in the courtroom.

Salah warned that the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site in occupied east Jerusalem, is under threat.

“They are persecuting us because we are trying to revive our religion and defend our holy places. They want us to accept the status of slaves in a Jewish state and this we won’t accept,” he said.

Salah said the Islamic Movement provided basic necessary goods and funds to charities caring for orphans in the occupied Palestinian territories.

He denied the cash went to the Hamas resistance group, which is spearheading the latest Intifada or uprising against Israel’s occupation.