The Longest-Serving Palestinian Prisoner in Israel

Nael Barghouti as a prisoner in 1993 (right) and as a long-haired youth in 1978. (photo: Alex Levac / Haaretz)

He was released in a prisoner swap after serving 33 years, then sent back in on a technicality.

By Gideon Levy / Haaretz
April 29, 2017

[After being returned to prison,] Nael was sentenced to 30 months in prison for violating the conditions of his release. But when that term ended, he was not set free. Then, two months ago came the astounding news that he would have to complete his life-plus-18-years sentence, originally meted out in 1978.

The three photographs on the chest of drawers at the entrance to the living room tell the whole unbelievable story. The first shot, from 1978, shows a long-haired youth. The second, taken 15 years later, is a portrait of a prisoner between his two aged parents, both of whom lean on canes. It was taken the last time they met. The third is of an elderly man, at the time of his release from prison.

Thirty-nine years separate the first and third images, and Nael Barghouti, the man in all of the photos, spent most of that time incarcerated in an Israeli prison for murdering Mordechai Yakoel, a bus driver, in 1978. There is no longer-serving prisoner than Barghouti, and no crueler arbitrary treatment by the authorities than that demonstrated in his case.

Barghouti was released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal in October 2011, after serving 33 years, but was sent back to prison 32 months later on the grounds that he had violated the terms of his release. He had been one of 70 prisoners freed as part of the deal — which involved an exchange of Palestinian inmates for the captured IDF soldier — who were rearrested in the wake of the abduction of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June 2014. The arrests were made solely to placate the settlers, and shortly after the bodies of the three youths were found, Israel launched a brutal attack, known as Operation Protective Edge, in the Gaza Strip.

In May 2015, the military court in Ofer Prison found that Barghouti had not committed any offense since his release, but in February 2017 it reversed its decision. Barghouti, who had been incarcerated since June 2014, was sent to serve out the rest of his original punishment, which was disproportionate to begin with: life plus 18 years.

[Read the full article here . . . ]