News / Middle East

Abbas Asks US to Help Free Jailed Palestinian Leader

FILE - Senior Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti appears at Jerusalem's court.
FILE - Senior Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti appears at Jerusalem's court.
Reuters
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked Washington to mediate with Israel for the release of Marwan Barghouti, a  Palestinian leader and possible presidential contender jailed a decade ago over a spate of suicide bombings.
 
Israel agreed last year to free 104 Palestinian prisoners in what it termed a gesture of goodwill to mark the resumption of direct, U.S.-backed peace talks. But Barghouti was excluded from this and occasional previous releases and the talks have since faltered with Washington struggling to keep them alive.
 
Any move to free such a high-profile figure as Barghouti would probably ignite a political fire storm in Israel. By the same token, it would shore up Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's standing at home and help give him domestic cover to carry on the as-yet unproductive talks with Israel.
 
A Palestinian official said Abbas had written to the United States asking them to bring about the release of ill prisoners, female inmates and minors, as well as Barghouti and two other high-profile leaders - Ahmed Sa'adat and Fouad Al-Shobaki.
 
“The president renewed his demand during the recent meetings in Washington,” said Qadoura Fares, chairman of the Palestinian Prisoner Club, referring to Abbas's trip to Washington this week to discuss the shaky peace process with President Barack Obama.
 
An Israeli court sentenced Barghouti to five life sentences and 40 years in jail in 2004, finding him guilty of orchestrating ambushes and suicide attacks during the Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, that was raging at the time.
 
Barghouti, now 54, has always denied the charges and he remains a highly popular figure among ordinary Palestinians, portrayed by his supporters as a Nelson Mandela-like figure who could galvanize and reunite their divided political landscape.
 
More than 70 of the prisoners Israel agreed to release have gone free since peace negotiations resumed in July and Palestinians are pushing for the final batch to be released by the end of this month.
 
However, the peace talks have made little progress and Washington is trying to set guidelines to keep them going beyond the original April 29 target date for a deal.
 
There was no immediate comment from Israel on the Palestinian request. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is already facing internal political resistance to any further prisoner releases given the apparent talks deadlock.
 
Israel has refused to free Barghouti in the past, leaving him out of a prisoner swap struck with the Islamist group Hamas in 2011, which saw some 1,000 Palestinian inmates go free.
 
Many Palestinians see the charismatic Barghouti, a senior member of Abbas's Fatah movement, as a top contender to succeed Abbas, who is 78 and has no designated deputy.
 
Barghouti was a leading activist in both the first and second Palestinian uprisings against Israel.
 
Born in the West Bank, he supports the idea of an end to the Middle East conflict through the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem - territory occupied by Israel in 1967.

You May Like

Video Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid