Jailed Palestinian Leader Marwan Barghouti 'Beaten With Clubs' by Guards, Family Claims

12:00 Mar 19 2024 Israel's Ayalon Prison (בית סוהר איילון)

Jailed Palestinian Leader Marwan Barghouti 'Beaten With Clubs' by Guards, Family Claims Jailed Palestinian Leader Marwan Barghouti 'Beaten With Clubs' by Guards, Family Claims
Jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti appearing in court in 2003. Credit: Moti Kimche Published by Haaretz

Fadwa Barghouti, back-dropped by a picture of her husband Marwan, the leader of the Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike, hold a press conference in Ramallah, West Bank, May 7, 2017. Credit: Nasser Nasser/AP Published by Haaretz

Israel denies holding senior Fatah member, who is serving five life sentences in Israel for murder, in inhumane conditions

by Jack Khoury and Josh Breiner for Haaretz
Mar 19, 2024 12:28 am IST

The Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Ex-Prisoners' Affairs, and the family of the senior Fatah member Marwan Barghouti, who is serving a life sentence in an Israeli jail, claim he was attacked with clubs by prison guards, and have asked countries involved in mediation between Israel and Hamas to intervene so he can receive an external medical evaluation. According to the claims, Barghouti suffered bleeding near his eye as a result of the injuries suffered.

Barghouti's wife Fadwa and the head of the Palestinian Commission for Detainees Qadura Fares expressed concerns for Barghouti's life if he does not receive external supervision. Fares told Haaretz that "13 prisoners and detainees had died in jail and that the reason given had been medical or other reasons. Marwan is 65 years old and the concern is that after 21 years in jail he will suddenly die and they will say it was because of medical reasons." Fares added that "We cannot be indifferent to his situation in solitary confinement" in view of the fact that his name has been brought up in the framework of talks over a prisoner swap and in view of the extremist positions of Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir who is responsible for the Prison Service."

Barghouti filed a petition with the court in January alleging that he was being held in inhumane conditions. He was transferred to solitary confinement after the Israel Prison Services claimed that a press release had been issued on his behalf by the Palestinian Authority, which would constitute a violation of the conditions of his imprisonment. Barghouti claimed, among other things, that he did not receive proper food in solitary confinement, that he was forced to sleep on the floor, and that the guards searched his cell three times a day. In the petition, filed through attorney Avigdor Feldman, Barghouti further claimed that during his imprisonment in Ayalon Prison he was "beaten vigorously and frequently by the guards while being handcuffed, humiliated, cursed and dragged naked on the floor in the presence of other prisoners."

Hamas is expected to demand that Barghouti be released within the framework of a deal to release the Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. The demand is not new and has been presented in the past to Israel and rejected without this leading to previous deals collapsing. However, with Hamas now fighting for its political and military survival and with the United States and Arab regimes attempting to establish Palestinian governance over the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas can be expected to insist on his release this time. Barghouti enjoys broad Palestinian support and could replace Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Efforts to get Barghouti released from jail began before the war with his wife Fadwa meeting the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan, as well as senior American officials and European diplomats.

Fatah's Central Committee issued a statement condemning the violence against Barghouti and other Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. "The war against the prisoners is just as cruel as the war waged by Israel against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip," the statement read.

A spokesperson for the Israel Prison Service said: "Over the past few hours, false information has been published regarding security prisoner Marwan Barghouti. Contrary to reports, the Israel Prison Service operates in accordance with the law, and a petition recently filed by the prisoner was rejected by the courts." The spokesperson added that as per IPS' new policy, "arch-terrorists do not receive preferential treatment, and are subject to the same conditions as all security prisoners."

In April 2002, having survived an Israeli assassination attempt, Barghouti was arrested in Ramallah and charged with the killing of 26 people and belonging to a terrorist organization.

He was convicted on five counts of murder for the deaths of four Israelis and a Greek monk, as well as attempted murder and conspiracy to murder. In June 2004, he was sentenced to the maximum possible punishment for his convictions: five cumulative life sentences for the murders, and an additional 40 years for attempted murder and conspiracy.

For the last two decades, despite operating from a prison cell, Barghouti has managed to retain much of his political power – including playing a major role in mediating between Hamas and Fatah in February 2007 (prior to the latter's bloody expulsion from the Gaza Strip), and being elected to the Fatah party leadership in absentia in 2009.

Rachel Fink contributed to this report.
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