JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli authorities have charged the imam of a mosque in Nazareth with inciting violence against Pope Benedict and supporting al Qaeda and “global jihad,” the justice ministry said Sunday.
The indictment said Nazim Mahmoud Salim, who was arrested by police a month ago, led a group of about 2,000 worshippers, and had also preached at the flashpoint al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest shrine.
Salim is charged with inciting violence against Pope Benedict during his visit last year to Nazareth, the town of Jesus’ boyhood in the heartland of Israel’s minority Arab population.
In his sermons and on his website over the past decade, the indictment said, Salim preached “an ideological world view identical to that of global jihad” and wrote “publications that supported and identified with the terror organisation al Qaeda.”
It said Salim’s teachings inspired attacks against Jews and Christians, including the murder of one Jew.
At the time of Pope Benedict’s visit to the Holy Land in May 2009, the indictment quotes Salim as saying in a sermon at al Aqsa: “The pope prepares himself at the gate of the Vatican and at the head of a crusade against the Islamic world ... we will expel the pope from Nazareth.”
Salim is being held by authorities until the end of the proceedings, a Justice Ministry spokeswoman said.
Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, Editing by Mark Trevelyan