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Jailed Palestinian Leader Urges BBC Reporter's Release

Imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti has appealed for an immediate release of BBC reporter Alan Johnston who was kidnapped in the Gaza Strip last month.

In a statement from an Israeli jail Wednesday, Barghouti called the BBC journalist "a friend of the Palestinian people."

Barghouti, a top West Bank leader of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, is one of the most prominent Palestinians held in Israel. He is serving five consecutive life sentences for attacks that killed five people.

Earlier this week, Palestinian journalists held a rally in Gaza to show support for the British reporter, who has not been heard from since his abduction on March 12.

A previously unknown Palestinian group, The Brigades of Tawheed and Jihad, claimed to have killed him. But the claim could not be independently verified.

Several journalists and aid workers have been kidnapped in Gaza in recent months. Most have been released within hours or days.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.