Paris, Asharq Al-Awsat—Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas remains committed to securing the release of popular Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, a “priority” for his government, according to Barghouti’s wife.
In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat in Paris during an international tour to raise awareness of her husband’s continued imprisonment, Fadwa Barghouti said: “I have confirmation from the Palestinian leadership that they have called for his release in Washington, and the Palestinian negotiating delegation has made this one of its requirements from the Israeli side for any future political progress. President Abbas has told me that the Marwan Barghouti case is a top priority for him.”
Marwan Barghouti remains one of the most popular Palestinian leaders and is viewed by many as a potentially unifying figure. A leading figure in the first and second intifadas, he was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2004 by an Israeli court for orchestrating ambushes and suicide attacks. Barghouti denies the charges. He remains a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, being re-elected while in prison.
His release had been mooted as part of the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners that Israel was set to release as part of the current faltering negotiations, but Barghouti’s name did not appear on the eventual list of prisoners, who were in the end not released by Israel in retaliation for Palestine seeking to join a number of international organizations.
“Israel believes that arresting Barghouti is akin to arresting the entire Palestinian Intifada. Israel sought to criminalize the Palestinian resistance by criminalizing Barghouti. Releasing Barghouti is a huge political issue, and Israel believes that it is holding an important political card that it can use to blackmail the Palestinians,” his wife added.
Barghouti told Asharq Al-Awsat there were a number of obstacles to securing her husband’s release, but praised the continued efforts of the International Campaign for the Freedom of Marwan Barghouti and All Palestinian Prisoners. The campaign has been gaining momentum in recent months with the ongoing US-brokered Palestinian–Israeli talks. Its members include prominent international figures such as Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
“The Palestinian president told me that he is doing everything in his power to pressure the Israelis to release him. He told me: ‘If you need him, then you must know that so do I.’ President Abbas believes that Marwan Barghouti’s release from prison would strengthen the Palestinians and Palestinian national unity,” she added.