Court proceedings began Wednesday morning in Jerusalem for Hatem Abdel Qader, the Palestinian Chief of Jerusalem Affairs. He was charged with ‘violating a military order’ preventing him from praying at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.The mosque is considered the third-holiest site in Islam, but many Muslims are prohibited by Israeli authorities from praying there. Israeli authorities control access to the mosque and its grounds, which are located in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Palestinians who try to pray in the mosque face off with Israeli soldiers every Friday at East Jerusalem checkpoints, and very few are allowed to enter Jerusalem to pray at the mosque. Some, like Hatem Abdel Qader, have received personal orders from the Israeli military banning them from entering the mosque for a certain period of time. These orders do not provide the reason for the ban, but simply inform the recipient that they are not allowed to pray in the mosque.
Originally, Hatem Abdel Qader was supposed to be tried in May, but a group of right-wing Israelis disrupted the court proceedings and prevented the trial from moving forward.
Qader’s supporters gathered in front of the courthouse Wednesday morning, where they demanded that the Israeli court drop the military order against Qader and others. They say that these orders violate the internationally-recognized right to freedom of religion.