Hardline Arab-Israeli imam freed on bail in Britain

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A controversial Arab-Israeli Islamist leader, Sheikh Raed Saleh, was freed on bail by a British court Friday pending the outcome of his legal challenge against efforts by the government to deport him.

Saleh, 52, was detained in London last month on the orders of Home Secretary Theresa May for entering Britain despite a government ban, although his lawyers said he had no idea he was subject to an exclusion order.

Lawyers representing Saleh, head of the radical northern wing of Israel's Islamic Movement, told High Court judge Nicholas Stadlen on Friday that he did not pose a security risk and should not be held in custody.

Lawyers for Britain's interior ministry had opposed the bail application.

Saleh was arrested in London on June 28 after returning from a public event in the central English city of Leicester, one of several he was attending during a week-long visit.

He had been due to speak the following day at an event at the House of Commons organised by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) alongside three opposition Labour lawmakers.

At the time May said arrangements had begun to remove Saleh as he was subject to an exclusion order and an investigation had been launched into how he had managed to enter the country.

But Saleh's lawyers had said he was unaware he was subject to the order and vowed to "strongly challenge" attempts to deport him.

Several thousand Israeli Arabs protested in Nazareth, Israel, last weekend against Saleh's detention.

He has had multiple run-ins with the law in Israel, including most recently being arrested at the border with Jordan after allegedly striking an interrogator.

In 2010, he spent five months behind bars for spitting at an Israeli policeman, and he has been detained several other times, including in connection with an alleged arson incident.

He was also held after taking part in a the Gaza Strip-bound aid flotilla which Israeli naval commandos stormed on May 31, 2010 in an operation that killed nine Turkish activists.

The Islamic Movement is tolerated in Israel but is under constant surveillance because of its perceived links with the Palestinian militant Hamas movement that controls Gaza, as well as with other Islamist groups worldwide.

© 2011 AFP

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