Arab MK petitions court to let him visit Fatah leader and terror convict Barghouti

Ahmad Tibi demands injunction against Ben Gvir for gutting policy that let MKs exercise ‘oversight’ regarding Palestinian security prisoners’ conditions

MK Ahmad Tibi speaks during a Knesset House Committee meeting in Jerusalem, January 30, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
MK Ahmad Tibi speaks during a Knesset House Committee meeting in Jerusalem, January 30, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Veteran Arab lawmaker Ahmad Tibi on Sunday petitioned the Supreme Court to allow him to meet with Palestinian security prisoners, saying National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s blanket refusal to allow such meetings is discriminatory and contravenes the principle of legislative oversight.

MK Tibi, represented by legal non-profit Adalah, specifically demanded a meeting with top Fatah figure Marwan Barghouti, a highly popular Palestinian leader and former head of Fatah’s Tanzim terrorist faction, who, in 2002, was sentenced to five life sentences for his part in planning three terror attacks that killed five Israelis during the Second Intifada.

According to Tibi, a policy put in place by the last Knesset allowing such meetings had been nullified by Ben Gvir at the beginning of the current one, even as members of the minister’s own extremist Otzma Yehudit party have been allowed to visit Jewish terror convicts.

After Hamas’s shock October 7 assault, when thousands of terrorists stormed southern Israel to kill nearly 1,200 people and take over 250 hostages, Ben Gvir announced a worsening in the conditions of Palestinian prisoners, whom the Red Cross has not visited since October 25, according to Tibi’s petition.

“For half a year now, there has been no effective external oversight on the jailing conditions, and MK Tibi’s visit is especially important in these circumstances,” read an Adalah press release announcing the High Court petition.

“We are dealing with a case where the overseen party is preventing the overseer from overseeing him,” read the petition, which, in addition to Ben Gvir, named as respondents the Knesset, the attorney general, and the acting Israel Prison Service chief.

Late Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat, right, and then-Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, in the West Bank seat of the PA, Ramallah, December 31, 2001. (AP Photo/Mohammed Rawas/File)

The petition also noted that a recent request by Tibi to meet terror convict Walid Daqqa was ignored by Ben Gvir until after the inmate’s death, when the lawmaker was told his request had been rendered “irrelevant.”

It was urgent to meet Barghouti, the petition said, because of recent “reports regarding his harsh jailing conditions, including long stints of solitary confinement.” Barghouti, who has himself petitioned the High Court over his conditions, was said to have told his family he was repeatedly beaten by prison guards — including to the point of losing consciousness. Barghouti’s lawyer had seen signs of violence on his client’s face, back, and legs, according to Tibi’s petition.

Barghouti, one of the prisoners whose release has reportedly been demanded by Hamas in exchange for the Israeli hostages, is widely considered a leading rival of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Although both belong to the secular Fatah party, Barghouti launched a slate of candidates separate from Abbas’s during the 2021 Palestinian Authority elections, which the president ultimately canceled.

Gershon Baskin, a former negotiator for Israel with Hamas, has called for the release of Barghouti as a solution for Israel’s “day after” concerns about Gaza’s governance when the war sparked by Hamas’s assault is over. According to Baskin, if Barghouti were to assume leadership of the Palestinians, he could provide Israel with an alternative to a full occupation of Gaza and the empowerment of a local Palestinian administration that would inevitably be branded as traitorous by its peers.

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