In a groundbreaking ruling, a Jerusalem court put a Fatah leader behind bars for incitement to terrorism through social media.
In a precedential ruling on Tuesday, Judge Eitan Kornhauser sentenced Omar Shalabi, 44, from Jerusalem, to a nine-month prison term. Shalabi was found guilty of one count of incitement to terrorism and violence, and two counts of supporting a terror organization.
Shalabi was charged by the Jerusalem District Attorney (JDA) with using social media to laud the murder of Jewish civilians by Palestinian terrorists and inciting more violent actions.
“We are pleased that the court accepted the position of the State whereby those convicted of violent incitement through Facebook must face prison sentences,” Attorney Oshrat Shoham, of the JDA prosecution team said, adding “this decision is a precedent, clarifying that those who abuse free speech via Facebook, which exposure and influence is extensive, to call for violence and terrorism, belong behind bars.”
Shalabi posted his calls to violence and support of terrorists during last summer’s abduction and murder of the three Israeli teenagers, Operation Protective Edge in Gaza and large-scale rioting and murders in Jerusalem.
“[Arab] Children of Jerusalem! Anger and carry on the path of desperation and discord which will rage and purify Jerusalem and Al Aqsa from the filth of Jewish bastards” Shalabi wrote on his Facebook page. In another post, Shalabi condemned the Israeli security forces for eliminating Muatez Hijazi, a terrorist who attempted to assassinate Rabbi Yehuda Glick.
In his ruling, Kornhauser said that “we are not talking about a new type of crime, never before seen in court, but only a new means of carrying out the crime, utilizing technological advancement”
Shalabi, who headed a Fatah office in east Jerusalem, reached over 5,000 followers on Facebook, according to the prosecution.
This is the first time in Israel that a person has been charged and sentenced for incitement and support of terrorism via social media.
In a statement to the press, Shalabi’s attorney said “the punishment is exaggerated. Jews who incited violence were not even interrogated”.
Sara Haetzni-Cohen, chairperson of the My Israel Organization and social media activist, related her satisfaction with the verdict.
“I congratulate the court for this important decision,” she stated. “In the recent past there have been events of physical harm against Jews following radical statements on social media. If stopped at an early stage it could have prevented the harm. Today’s precedent is important and can save lives in the future.
By: Michael Zeff, Tazpit News Agency
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