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Israeli court rejects appeal to release longest-serving Palestinian prisoner

Jan. 4, 2017 6:38 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 5, 2017 2:01 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- An appeal filed by the lawyer of Nael Barghouthi, calling for the release of the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner following the completion of a 30-month sentence last month, was refused on Wednesday by Israel’s Ofer military court.

The Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said in a statement that the rejection of the appeal to release Barghouti, 59, was ordered by the military prosecution, which said there was a special committee studying Barghouthi's situation and that it had not yet released any reports on the case.

The committee added that during the court session, the judge had “hinted” that Israeli authorities may extend Barghouthi's sentence. However, it remained unclear what was said to insinuate a renewal of the prisoner’s sentence.

Israeli forces first detained Barghouthi, who is from the village of Kobar in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah, in 1978 when he was 20 years old for alleged membership in an armed resistance group

The committee said that Barghouthi had spent more than 35 years in prison, and was most recently freed in a 2011 swap deal between Israel and the Hamas movement to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel

However, Barghouthi was among the more than 50 Palestinians who were released in the deal to have since been redetained. When he was redetained in 2014, Israeli authorities claimed that he had broken the terms of his release and sentenced him to 30 months in prison. However, despite completing his sentence last month, Israeli forces have yet to release the prisoner.

After serving the latest 30-month sentence, Barghouthi has become the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner in Israeli custody.

Since the Shalit deal, Israel has initiated mass detention campaigns to bring hundreds of former prisoners released in the exchange back into Israeli custody, in violation of the agreement.

Hamas has repeatedly insisted that Israel must release all prisoners who were freed as part of the deal but have since been redetained, before starting talks in a new prisoner swap deal.

According to Palestinian prisoners' rights group Addameer, some 7,000 Palestinians were held in Israeli custody as of October, 15 of whom were serving more than 25 years in prison.

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