Israeli Military Court Rejects Life Term for Palestinian Who Killed Soldier

Nael Barghouti had murdered a soldier in 1978 but was released in the Gilad Shalit deal. He’s now in prison for two and a half years.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
Nael Barghouti waves a green Islamic flag and a Palestinian flag to the crowd after arriving in the West Bank city of Ramallah October 18, 2011.
Nael Barghouti waves a green Islamic flag and a Palestinian flag to the crowd after arriving in the West Bank city of Ramallah October 18, 2011. Credit: AP
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

A military court Thursday rejected the state’s request that it return Nael Barghouti, a prisoner released in the 2011 exchange for abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, to prison for life.

Barghouti, a Fatah member, was originally arrested in 1978 and sentenced to life for killing an Israeli soldier. He was the longest-serving prisoner to be freed in the Shalit deal.

In June 2014, he was rearrested, along with 59 other Palestinians freed in the Shalit deal, after Hamas kidnapped three Israeli teens in the West Bank.

The military prosecution then asked the court to reinstate his original life sentence, arguing that he had violated the terms of his release — in part by agreeing to become a minister in the Fatah-Hamas unity government and by taking part in activities organized by Hamas’ student union.

His lawyer, Merav Khoury, countered that Barghouti was not a Hamas member and had merely been invited to lecture about his experiences in jail.

On Monday, the Ofer Military Court refused to return him to jail for life, instead sentencing him to two and a half years in prison. Most of the ruling is classified, but in the unclassified portion, the court said it found insufficient evidence that Barghouti had “committed a crime under the security laws,” and therefore he could not be sentenced to life.

It added, however, that he did violate the law against financing terrorist activity, and for that he could be sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Khoury said afterward that the ruling was based on classified intelligence that the defendant wasn’t allowed to see, and therefore he had no ability to defend himself against the charges.

In a separate ruling, the court also rejected the prosecution’s request that another prisoner freed in the Shalit deal be returned to jail for life. Nayef Shawarmeh had been sentenced to life for murder in 1999. The prosecution argued that he violated the terms of his release by trying to go to Jordan.

But the court sentenced Shawarmeh to 40 months in jail, also for violating the law against financing terrorism. Since most of the ruling in his case was also classified, it isn’t clear exactly what his offense was.

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