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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs