Page last updated at 14:36 GMT, Thursday, 28 January 2010

Rabbi suspected in West Bank mosque arson released

Palestinians inspect fire damage at the Yasuf mosque
Carpets and copies of the Quran were burned in the attack

Israeli police have released a rabbi they arrested in connection with an arson attack on a mosque in the West Bank last month.

Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, from the settlement of Yitzhar, was arrested on Wednesday after he refused to co-operate with a police investigation.

Mr Shapira, who denies any involvement, was released on Thursday.

A court ruled that Mr Shapira should be released on Wednesday but police appealed against the decision.

On Thursday a Jerusalem magistrate turned down that appeal, saying the police and intelligence service Shin Bet had no evidence he was involved in the arson attack on a mosque in the Palestinian village of Yasuf on 10 January.

Attackers burned the mosque's carpet and a shelf of Qurans, and wrote slogans in Hebrew on the floor.

Police arrested some students from the Od Yosef Hai yeshiva which is run by Mr Shapira, earlier this month saying they wanted to investigate whether they were involved in the mosque attack.

They have been remanded in custody until later on Thursday when it will be decided if they will face charges.

'Not co-operating'

Security sources said on Wednesday that Rabbi Shapira was "suspected of involvement in an attempt to set fire to a mosque".

Rabbi Shapira's lawyer told the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahranot that his client "denies any connection to the event".

He was not co-operating with his investigators "in light of the Israel police's conduct and their treatment of rabbis recently," he said.

Rabbi Shapira published a controversial book last year which includes discussion of interpretations of the circumstances under which Jewish law permits Jews to kill non-Jews.

There have been protests by seminary students and a right-wing member of the Knesset outside the police station where he is being held.

The yeshiva said in a statement that he had been arrested "because of suspicion of not preventing the crime of torching a little carpet near a mosque".

It said the institution's spirit would not be broken by what it called "an alienated and frightened regime", in reference to the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Netanyahu has ordered a 10-month lull in permits for new settlement homes in the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem.

The order followed US and Palestinian calls for a total freeze in settlement building.

Palestinian officials have refused to rejoin peace talks until a total freeze is imposed.

Some hard-line settlers say they will attack Palestinians in retaliation for any Israeli government measure they see as threatening Jewish settlements.

It is a policy they call the "price tag".

All Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

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