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Longest-serving Palestinian prisoner resentenced to life in prison plus 18 years

Feb. 22, 2017 6:49 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 23, 2017 1:22 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Nael Barghouthi, the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner, was sentenced on Wednesday by an Israeli military court to life in prison with an additional 18-year sentence, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS).

PPS said in a statement that the court had ruled that Barghouthi, 59, was to serve the remainder of his previous sentence received prior to his short-lived release in 2011 as part of a prisoner swap deal between Israel and the Hamas movement.

Israeli forces first detained Barghouthi, who is from the village of Kobar in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah, in 1978 when he was 20 years old for alleged membership in an armed resistance group.

After being released as part of a prisoner swap exchanging Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit with more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, he was redetained in June 2014 when Israeli authorities claimed that he had broken the terms of his release, and was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Barghouthi’s 30-month sentence ended on Dec. 17, 2016, however, he remained in Israeli custody after a military court rejected an appeal to release him in January, with the military prosecution saying at the time that there was a special committee studying Barghouthi's situation and that it had not yet released any reports on the case.

Following his 30-month sentence, Barghouthi became the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner, serving nearly 37 years in prison, 34 of which were served consecutively.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasim said the Israeli decision to resentence Barghouthi was "another crime added to the criminal record of the Israeli occupation against the Palestinian people."

He added that the decision was a "futile attempt to break the will of our people and stop their endeavor to gain freedom."

Abu Ubeida, the spokesman of Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said that the court decision was "worthless, as the al-Qassam Brigades have decided to free prisoners and that is only a matter of time."

Since the Shalit deal, Israel has initiated mass detention campaigns to bring hundreds of former prisoners released in the exchange back into Israeli custody, in violation of the agreement.

Hamas has repeatedly insisted that Israel must release all prisoners who were freed as part of the deal but have since been redetained before starting talks in a new prisoner swap deal.

Earlier this month,
Hamas had reportedly rejected an offer by the Israeli government to release a Hamas official in Israeli custody in exchange for the release of one of two Israelis thought to be held alive in the Gaza Strip.

According to Palestinian prisoners' rights group Addameer, some 6,500 Palestinians were held in Israeli custody as of January, 17 of whom were serving more than 25 years in prison.

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