Friday, January 27, 2012

Palestinian leader Barghuti 'punished for remarks'

Israel has placed jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghuti in solitary confinement over remarks he made to the press during a rare court appearance, officials said on Thursday.

Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, told AFP the move was discovered on Thursday when a lawyer went to visit Barghuti.

The leader told his lawyer that he had been moved to solitary as a punishment for remarks he made a day earlier during a brief appearance at a Jerusalem court.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Israel Prisons Service.

Barghuti, who is serving five life sentences after being convicted of involvement in several deadly anti-Israeli attacks, was called to testify at the Jerusalem Magistrates Court as part of a US civil lawsuit against the Palestinian leadership in connection with bloodshed during the second intifada (2000-2005).

Although he refused to testify, he made several statements in English, Hebrew and Arabic, telling reporters: "Peace cannot happen without ending the occupation," and urging the Palestinians "to continue their popular struggle."

"The Israeli police warned Barghuti not to speak to the media but they allowed the press into the court room," a Palestinian legal source told AFP, in comments confirmed by Fares.

Barghuti's lawyer, Elias Sabbagh, described the move as "unfair" and said it would not silence the veteran activist, who enjoys widespread support among the Palestinian public.

"Barghuti is a popular Palestinian leader and this is the first time in five years he has spoken (directly) to the press. This punishment will not change the strength of his opinions," he told AFP.

Barghuti, a senior leader within the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, is known for being a lifelong activist who supported the Oslo peace process in the 1990s.

But Israel accused him of masterminding the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, which erupted in 2000.

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