Yoav Zitun
November 22, 2010 - 1:00am

The Jaffa imam who was arrested on suspicion of involvement in undisclosed security offenses earlier this month was released Monday.

"They made me out to be Osama bin Laden," imam Muhammad Ayash of the al-Bahr mosque told Ynet upon his release. "They want to make Jaffa into Umm al-Fahm and the Jaffa Arabs into terrorists. They are going to destroy the co-existence that we have build together with our Jewish neighbors over decades.

"I have Jewish friends and neighbors, I studied at local schools; the investigators were even surprised at how good my Hebrew is," he added.

Ayash, who was detained since November 9, noted that this was his first run-in with the law, and denied all ties to charges that brought to his arrest. "True, I am active in the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, but all my life I do charity work, and I don't and never have had any connection to any type of security violation," he said.

He said that even though he is glad that justice was eventually brought to light, he did suffer an emotional trauma. "I was questioned for eight and nine hours, but I didn't break because I didn't have a reason to break," he said. "They didn’t hurt me physically but they certainly hurt me emotionally.

"They called me a terrorist and a liar. I'm sure that they don't have even the slightest bit of evidence for the offenses they accused me of."

'Security forces must apologize'
Attorney Eitan On, who represents Ayash, said that "as expected, the Shin Bet's strenuous investigation turned up nothing."

Tel Aviv-Yafofa city councilmen Ahmad Mashrawi (Meretz) said that it was evident from the start that the arrest was false. "National security is important to the Arabs of Jaffa as well," he said. "If a small part of the allegations against him was true, he wouldn't have been released today.

"In the atmosphere of hatred that exists in Israel, the security system better check itself before arresting a man of religion so as not to add oil to the fire that is liable to burn us all," he added.

He called the security forces that arrested him to issue an apology to Ayash and his family.


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