Hardline Arab-Israeli imam held in Britain: spokesman

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Controversial Arab-Israeli Islamist leader Sheikh Raed Saleh has been arrested in London while on a speaking tour in Britain, a spokesman for the Islamic Movement told AFP on Wednesday.

"He was arrested on Tuesday night in London and is still in custody. We don't know yet if he will be deported but we are expecting to hear from his lawyer today," Sheikh Kamal Khatib told AFP.

Khatib said it was not clear exactly why Saleh had been detained, but he blamed "the Zionist lobby in Britain" for pushing police to hold the leader.

Saleh, who is the head of the radical northern wing of the Islamic Movement, has had multiple run-ins with the law in Israel, including most recently being arrested at the Israeli 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 on a number of other occasions, including in connection with an alleged arson incident.

He was also held after taking part in a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that Israeli naval commandos stormed on May 31, 2010 in a botched operation that left nine Turkish activists dead.

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

Israel's Arab community numbers 1.3 million, about 20 percent of the population. It is made up of 160,000 Palestinians who remained in Israel after the 1948 establishment of the Jewish state, and their descendants.

© 2011 AFP

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