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Lod Imam Faces Incitement Charges for Facebook Messages

A Muslim religious leader from the central Israeli city of Lod faces charges of incitement to violence based on messages he posted to Facebook during riots that shook the mixed Jewish-Arab city in May. Sheikh Yusuf Albaz, 63, was arraigned Thursday in a Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court. He is accused of posting a video clip from a movie on Facebook that showed the murder of two police officers alongside a message encouraging others to do the same. He also threatened Deputy Mayor Yossi Harush in a post on Facebook. He later told police investigators that he stood behind his messages. Two men, one Jewish and one Arab, were killed during the riots, which occurred while the Israeli military and Hamas traded blows in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel. Albaz served as imam of the Great Mosque in Lod from 1991 to 2018, and remains involved in the mosque and a community leader. He is affiliated with the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, which has close ties with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.