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Palestinian lawyer signs plea bargain as NGO slams Israeli 'persecution of rights defenders'

Feb. 23, 2017 5:13 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 24, 2017 10:20 A.M.)
Addameer lawyer Anas Barghouthi. (Photo courtesy of Samidoun)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A Palestinian lawyer signed a plea deal earlier this week in order to avoid a prison sentence for his alleged involvement with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), as his organization called the case the latest example of Israel’s “persecution of human rights defenders.”

Anas Barghouthi, a lawyer for prisoners rights group Addameer, accepted a plea bargain on Sunday in order to forgo a prison sentence for allegedly being a member of PFLP and leading demonstrations against Israeli policies, NGO Amnesty International reported on Wednesday.

Barghouthi has denied both charges.

“The case exemplifies the persisting persecution of human rights defenders in the absence of any adequate evidence showing that they pose a security threat,” Addameer legal unit director Mahmoud Hassan told Ma’an on Thursday, citing the “prolonged trial proceedings” and “excessive” bail.

The plea bargain includes a 7,000-shekel ($1,892) fine, as well as a suspended sentence of 18 months in prison if Barghouthi is found to be involved with PFLP in the coming five years, and an eight-month suspended sentence if he participates in protests in the next three years.

Barghouthi was initially detained in September 2013 and released on bail in October of that year. The plea deal marked the end of a nearly three-and-a-half year legal ordeal.

“I don’t believe that we can ever receive justice in the occupation’s military courts, which participate actively in our oppression. This is the Israeli authorities’ way of intimidating me and trying to silence me,” Amnesty quoted Barghouthi as saying. “For the next five years of my life I will live in fear. They could make up an allegation for any reason or someone could testify against me and I will have an 18-month sentence waiting for me.”

Rights groups have claimed that Israel uses detention and threat of imprisonment to attempt to disrupt Palestinian political and social processes, notably targeting Palestinian activists, journalists, and politicians.

According to Addameer, 6,500 Palestinians were held in Israeli custody as of January.
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