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Palestinians protest resentencing of longest-serving prisoner Nael Barghouthi

Feb. 23, 2017 5:10 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 23, 2017 8:50 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- A sit-in was organized on Wednesday evening in the occupied West Bank district of Ramallah in solidarity with Nael Barghouthi, the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner who was sentenced on Wednesday by an Israeli military court to life in prison with an additional 18-year sentence.

The sit-in was organized by the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs and other faction leaders and officials, including secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative Mustafa Barghouthi and member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Abu Saleh Hisham. Families of Palestinian prisoners in Israel, former prisoners, and activists also joined the demonstration.

PPS said in a statement on Wednesday that the Israeli 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.

Protesters held signs with slogans condemning the Israeli occupation and demanding the release of Barghouthi and all other prisoners who have been redetained by Israeli forces since being released in prisoner exchange deals with Israel. Protesters also called upon the international community and rights organizations to intervene in order to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Hisham said the sit-in was spontaneous following the resentencing of Barghouthi and would be followed by additional activities to condemn Israeli violations against the Palestinians.

“The Israeli crime against Barghouthi is part of the policy of Israeli occupation to burn the youth of Palestine by putting them behind bars where they will waste their years experiencing Israel’s punitive and racist procedures,” he said.

Hisham added that Israel has been using Palestinian prisoners as “blackmail” and a “political card” to use in any future potential prisoner exchange deals.

Hisham also urged countries that had supported and sponsored the prisoner exchange deals work to release the 64 Palestinian prisoners who have since been redetained following their initial release according to the deals.

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.

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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