Marwan Barghouti: Prisoner of Conscience
From March 29 – May 3, 2002, during the second Intifada, Israel conducted Operation Defensive Shield. Before Cast Lead, it was its largest military operation since June 1967 when Israel occupied Palestine.
On September 23, 2001, a warrant was issued for Barghouti’s arrest. On April 14, 2002, he was arrested on spurious charges of murder, aiding and abetting murder, promoting murder, criminal conspiracy, and being an active member of a terrorist organization.
At the time he said:
“I am a political leader, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council,
elected by my people. Israel has no right to try me, to accuse me, to judge me.
This is a violation of international law. I have a (legal) right to resist
On September 5, his trial began. Barghouti disputed its legitimacy under
international law. On December 12, Judge Zvi Gurfinkel ruled as follows:
“I reject the argument at this stage of the proceeding regarding the Court’s
authority in the context of the petition for the detention pending completion of
proceedings filed by the State against the Defendant.”
“Ultimately, the State of Israel has the right and the authority to judge the
Defendant,” according to Israeli and international law.
On May 20, 2004, Barghouti was convicted of involvement in three terrorist
attacks killing five people. Acquitted on 33 other charges, he received five
consecutive life sentences plus 40 years.
A three-judge panel ruled that although he didn’t fully control local Brigade
leaders and wasn’t directly involved, he had “significant influence” over their
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) international organization of parliaments and sovereign states published a legal assessment of his proceedings based on case notes, prosecutorial member and defense team interviews, as well as others with international NGO trial observers.
IPU concluded that:
“From the beginning of the investigations until the final day of the trial, the
prosecution put almost as much effort into staging a media event as it did into
working on the legal aspects.”
Moreover, show trial theatrics and publicity took precedence over Barghouti’s
legal rights. Numerous international laws were breached. Judicial fairness was
denied. The entire process was illegitimate. It elevated him more than ever to
Justice was clearly denied. Barghouti remains imprisoned. During last October’s prisoner swap, he was excluded. So were other Palestinian leaders, including Ahmed Saadat, Ibrahim Hamed, Hasan Salameh, Abdullah Al-Barghouti, Jamal Abu El-Heija, and Abbas Issyd.
Barghouti Indicts Israel
On October 3, 2002, Barghouti indicted Israel on 54 counts, saying:
“The State of Israel is directly and indirectly criminally responsible for
committing specific acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing, including uprooting
Palestinians by military attacks, arbitrary arrests and illegal imprisonment,
administrative detention, attacks on women, children and the elderly, systematic and wanton destruction of property and homes, (and) systematic expropriation and dispossession….”
He added other charges, including:
Violence to life and person (including assassinations), confiscation of lands
and property, creation of separate reserves and Bantustans, disruptive public
life and terrorizing a whole population (including collective punishment and
In addition, “racial discrimination, stealing, looting and plundering,
infliction of serious bodily or mental harm (including torture and other cruel
and inhuman treatment), mutilation, causing death and serious injury, (and)
deliberate imposition of (inhumane) living conditions….”
Also, “legislative measures calculated to prevent Palestinians from
participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life and the
deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of
Palestinians, exploitation of labor, persecution of organizations and members,
depriving persons of fundamental rights and freedoms because they oppose
military occupation, colonialism, or apartheid, and other criminal acts.”
Barghouti powerfully presented provable facts. Yet he’s wrongfully imprisoned
while legions of past and present Israeli leaders remain unaccountable for
decades of crimes of war and against humanity, slow-motion genocide, and much more. Justice awaits its day.
On November 8, 2011, The New York Times (a notorious Israeli supporter) gave op-ed space to Avinoam Bar-Yosef, Jewish People Policy Planning Institute president and former daily Maariv chief diplomatic correspondent.
Headlined, “Release Marwan Barghouti,” he said:
Barghouti’s “regarded as the sole Palestinian leader who enjoys the full trust
of Fatah and the Palestinian public, (and) is said to have figured prominently
in high-level Israeli consultations (in retaliation against) Abbas for his” UN
de jure membership petition.
“The Israeli peace camp” wants him released. Israel so far refuses.
Bar-Yosef knows him well. He “never denied the right of the Jewish people to a
Jewish state.” He favored an Islamic Palestinian one, but “expressed contempt
for Islamic fundamentalists.”
“Above all,” he’s uncorruptable. While a student, he focused on refugee camp
As a Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member, he strongly opposed Fatah
corruption. He’s a powerful leader. “He is rightly courted by the Obama
administration and many Israelis.”
Most Israelis support a two-state solution provided Palestine recognizes Israel
as a Jewish state and accepts limited right of return privileges. Abbas can’t
achieve it. Only Barghouti can and deserves a chance.
Detailed information on him can be found at:
Called the architect of the first Intifada (1987 – 1993), he symbolizes
Palestinian unity and resistance. He served as Fatah West Bank Higher Committee Secretary-General (to develop civil society). He’s also a PLC member.
He’s easily Palestine’s most popular leader and would win overwhelmingly if
allowed to run for president.
At age 15, he joined Fatah and co-founded its Youth Movement (Shabiba). In 1978, he was arrested and imprisoned for over four years for “membership in a banned organization.”
In 1985, he was arrested again and administratively detained uncharged for six
months. In 1987, he was expelled to Jordan for “incitement.” He liaisoned
between exiled PLO members and Fatah during the first Intifada.
In 1989, he was elected to Fatah’s Revolutionary Council and the PLO Central
Council. In April 1994, he returned to the West Bank. He supports Palestinian
independence; a two-state within 1967 borders; peace with Israel; social,
political and economic justice; democratic values, and women’s rights.
Initially an Oslo supporter, he later rejected it. Settlement expansions
betrayed it. As a result, he urged ending negotiations until Israel
unconditionally halted them and committed to ending Palestine’s occupation.
He denied founding the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, advocates a political
solution, rejects violence or submission, but supports “any (legal) action
against the Israeli occupation.”
He also became disillusioned with America as an “honest broker.” As Oslo
dissolved into violence, he urged liberating resistance.
In prison, he completed his high school education and became fluent in Hebrew. He later earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Birzeit University. His master’s thesis covered Palestinian-French relations from 1967 – 1997. He was also active in student politics and headed BZU’s Student Council.
His wife Fadwa Ibrahim prominently supports Palestinian prisoner rights. She
also campaigns actively for her husband’s release.
She calls him Palestine’s “natural leader,” saying opinion polls show he’s “the
choice of Palestinians because of his adherence to the two-state solution, his
fight against corruption and for the rights of women and democracy.”
They also want him freed “to lead them in their fight against occupation.”
Israel calls him a terrorist. Supporters know he champions diplomacy, not
He’s also for Palestinians and Jews living independently in their own states in
peace. Israel chooses confrontation and violence to prevent it.
A Final Comment
On the eve of last October’s prisoner swap, Barghouti’s secretly written book
was smuggled out of prison by lawyers and family members. Titled, “One Thousand Nights in Solitude,” it detailed his prison treatment.
Once arrested and detained, Palestinians are guilty by accusation. Convictions
are virtually certain. So is horrendous treatment, including physical and
psychological torture, as well as other forms of abuse.
Political activist Majad Abdel Hamid said Barghouti’s “trying to create a civil
resistance” in prison. “If all Palestinians refused to recognize the legitimacy
of” military trials and automatic convictions, “Israel would be in big trouble.
This is partly what the book is about.”
Barghouti endured three years of punishing tiny cell isolation, as well as other
physical and psychological torment. He never broke and champions Palestinian unity and nonviolent resistance to end Israel’s occupation.
He also authored two books and a University of Cairo doctoral dissertation
titled, “The Legislative Council and its Contribution to the Democratic Process
in Palestine from 1996 to 2008.”
In 1999, he was accepted by the University of Cairo and Arab Academy for
Research and Studies to pursue doctoral studies. In prison, he successfully
Free or imprisoned, he symbolizes hope. Supporters hope one day he’ll be free to lead them.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
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