Speaking to Aljazeera.net a few hours after his release, Salah said he was a victim of Israeli racism and oppression.
 
"In any other country, giving charity to the poor is a laudable act. Here in this country, which claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East, it is a crime to give a poor Palestinian family a loaf of bread ... they claim this amounts to aiding terror."
 
The 47-year-old insisted his imprisonment was political in nature. He was released one day ahead of schedule in order to circumvent support demonstrations outside the prison where he was being held.

Salah heads the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, founded in the 1980s, which is a legal, political organisation representing minority interests in the state and includes a social welfare wing.

This wing focuses on health, education and emergency poverty assistance to Palestinians inside Israel and in the occupied territories.
 
In 2003, Salah was arrested, along with four other Islamist leaders from the Arab-Israeli town of Um al-Fahm, on several charges, including conspiracy, receiving money from "illegal" sources abroad and funnelling money to resistance group, Hamas, and thereby aiding "terror".

Charges denied

Salah vehemently denied the charges, arguing that what he did was to provide charity to Palestinian families impoverished by unmitigated Israeli repression. 
  

Salah has raised concerns about
Jewish attempts to raze al-Aqsa

However, an Israeli court found Salah guilty of "aiding the enemy" and sentenced him to three years retrospectively.

The Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA), which has closely monitored Salah's arrest and trial, said in a report that the arrests of Salah and others are part of a process in which the state has rejected the independent participation of the minority in Israeli politics.

It also said that the accused's defence lawyers provided information that the only money that the Islamic Movement transferred to the occupied territories came directly from Arab families inside Israel.
 
"The HRA is deeply concerned about the implication in the charges that members of the Palestinian minority can be prosecuted for giving humanitarian aid to Palestinians in need in the occupied territories."

Farce

During the trial, the Israeli court summoned extremist Jews who attacked Islam and the Quran, saying it encouraged terrorism.
 

"In any other country, giving charity to the poor is a laudable act, here in this country ... it is a crime to give a poor Palestinian family a loaf of bread..."

Shaikh Raed Salah,
Islamic Movement leader

Salah denounced the trial - which lasted more than 23 months - as a  "farce" and a "trial of our religion, a trial of the Quran and a trial of the victim by the aggressor".
 
He argued that the reason behind the campaign against him was his attempt to draw the Muslim community's attention to Jewish designs against Islamic holy places in Jerusalem, especially al-Aqsa mosque.

Travel ban

Earlier this month, an Israeli judge had barred Salah from entering Jerusalem or travelling abroad for six months. Following his release, Salah is barred from entering Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip without prior authorisation from Israeli police. 
 

Salah was freed a day ahead of
 schedule to pre-empt protests

The Islamic Movement in Israel rejected the ban, calling it "incompatible with religious freedom".
 
Salah told Aljazeera that the "decision is an ugly message directed to our Palestinian people and to the Islamic movement telling us to ask permission before entering al-Aqsa mosque."

"This is irrelevant to the fact that al-Aqsa Mosque is a Muslim and Arab concern," Salah added.

"Israel has no right to even a grain of sand from the al-Aqsa."

He vowed that "if a strong religious need to enter al-Aqsa arose tomorrow, I will go in without permission from anyone".

Al-Aqsa warning

Salah had been at the forefront of a campaign to raise the Muslim world's awareness of attempts by Jewish extremists to destroy al-Aqsa mosque in order to build a Jewish temple on the site.
 

"Israel has no right to even a grain of sand from the al-Aqsa"

Shaikh Raed Salah
Islamic Movement leader

Israel viewed the campaign as an incitement against Jews and since his release, Salah has been warned not to make any statements about danger posed against the al-Aqsa.

"This is another ugly message to which I am not complying, because it curbs the voices of freedom we should raise to reaffirm that al-Aqsa is in real danger."

Salah further said: "The source of danger is not from those small Jewish extremist organisations; but the real danger against al-Aqsa comes from the (official) Israeli establishment."

For further information on the detention and trial, access:
www.arabhra.org