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Archbishop Desmond Tutu nominates Marwan Barghouti for Nobel Peace Prize

June 7, 2016 8:37 P.M. (Updated: June 8, 2016 1:47 P.M.)
South African human rights activist and anti-apartheid advocate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. (AFP, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- South African archbishop and prominent human rights activist Desmond Tutu nominated Marwan Barghouti for the Nobel Peace Prize on Monday, marking the sixth nomination for the imprisoned Palestinian parliamentary.

“The nomination of Marwan Barghouti, a symbol of the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom, constitutes a clear signal of support for the realization of the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights, including to self-determination,” Tutu wrote in a letter shared by the Palestinian Liberation Organization on Tuesday.

“I call on the members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee to seize this occasion to bring attention back to the question of Palestine and to the calls for a just and lasting peace, a prospect Marwan Barghouti continues advocating and acting for, despite years of imprisonment and isolation.”

Tutu, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his work to bring down the apartheid regime in South Africa, has long spoken out against the Israeli occupation, notably describing Zionism in 1988 as having “many parallels with racism.”

He has also been an early supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

In his letter, Tutu called the detention of elected Palestinian representatives such as Barghouti “a blatant attack against the Palestinian nation, democracy and rights,” further denouncing Israel’s policy of mass incarceration of Palestinians “an attempt to break the will of an entire people striving for freedom and independence.”

“There is an international consensus around these rights but there is a need to support them through symbolic and practical steps that would precipitate the end of the occupation as an indispensable step to achieve peace,” Tutu added.

“I hope the Nobel Committee will take a bold decision bringing us closer to the day this holy land, charged with unique symbolic value, can stop being a living testimony of injustice and impunity, occupation and apartheid, and can finally be a beacon of freedom, hope and peace.”

The campaign to buttress Barghouti as a potential nominee for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize was launched in April and included the participation of various Palestinian rights groups, parliament members and party officials, who aimed to draw attention to the 7,000 Palestinians, including seven Palestinian Legislative Council members, currently held in Israeli prisons.

Israeli forces routinely detain Palestinians for their political opinions in an attempt to disrupt and suppress the Palestinian political process. The several thousand Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons are being held in contravention to international law and despite Israeli court rulings stating that no person can be detained for their political views, according to the Palestinian prisoners' rights group Addameer.

In addition to Tutu, Barghouti has thus far this year been nominated by the Arab Parliament, Palestinian National Council speaker Saleem al-Zaanoun, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel, leading members of Belgium’s parliament, and Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union President Nabih Berri.

In April, the Tunisian Human Rights League gave the Nobel Peace Prize won by the country’s National Dialogue Quartet last year to Barghouti, handing the award to his wife Fadwa Barghouti in a ceremony at the Palestinian embassy in Tunisia.

The Tunisian parliament has also reportedly expressed its support for the Palestinian politician’s nomination.

Barghouti, a leading politician in the Fatah party, entered the 15th year of his prison sentence this year.

After being detained in 2002, he was later handed five consecutive life sentences after Israeli authorities charged him with the founding of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a group Israel designates as a “terrorist” organization, and being involved in several murders during the Second Palestinian Intifada, charges he has consistently denied.

The imprisoned parliament member was politically active for several decades before being elected to parliament in 1996. However, he ascended to prominence as a powerful leader against Israeli military occupation amid the political upheaval of the Second Intifada.

He has remained politically active from behind bars, including assisting in the drafting of the Mecca agreement in 2007, which paved the way for a unity government aimed at ending internal political conflict in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Barghouti remains one of the most popular politicians in Palestine, receiving a wide range of support among various political factions. Many see him as an indispensable component of hope for the possibilities of obtaining a viable peace process and a renewed unification throughout the Palestinian political landscape.

As a result of the widespread respect held for Barghouti, the politician was named a strong contender for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ replacement, as a recent poll revealed Barghouti having more popular support than any other politician as a potential presidential replacement, and the only Fatah member to receive more support than Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh, according to a survey conducted this year by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, while the majority of those polled supported the resignation of Abbas.

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