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Court: Senior Hamas member released in Shalit exchange will serve out life sentence

Nael Barghouti, who was freed in 2011 after serving 33 years and then rearrested in 2014, now found to have violated original release terms

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Hamas terrorist Nael Barghouti waves a green Islamic flag and a Palestinian flag to the crowd after arriving in the West Bank city of Ramallah after he was released as part of an exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held by Hamas, October 18, 2011. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)
Hamas terrorist Nael Barghouti waves a green Islamic flag and a Palestinian flag to the crowd after arriving in the West Bank city of Ramallah after he was released as part of an exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held by Hamas, October 18, 2011. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

An Israeli court ruled on Tuesday that a senior Hamas terror group member will serve out his life sentence after he was freed in a 2011 prisoner swap and later rearrested.

Nael Barghouti, 65, was one of 1,027 inmates released in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held at the time by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

At the time of the exchange, Barghouti had served 33 years for participating in the 1978 killing of an Israeli bus driver, Mordechai Yekuel, making him one of the longest-held Palestinians. He was first arrested that year, at the age of 20.

Israel has since rearrested scores of Palestinians on charges of resuming terror activities. Several Israelis have been killed by terrorists freed in the exchange for Shalit, who had been abducted by Hamas in 2006.

Many of the Shalit prisoners were rounded up after three Israeli teens, Gil-ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Fraenkel, were kidnapped and killed by a Hamas cell in the West Bank in 2014.

Barghouti, arrested in that sweep, subsequently served 30 months for Hamas membership. He completed the sentence on December 17, 2016, but was never released.

The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday said a military court had reinstated Barghouti’s original sentence on appeal, life plus 18 years.

The ruling followed an appeal by military prosecutors who argued Barghouti violated the terms of his release under the Shalit deal by possessing an unspecified large sum of money, allegedly funneled by a terror group. The appeal was also discussed in May by the High Court of Justice before an appeals committee eventually ruled that Barghouti had indeed violated the terms of his release.

In 2017, the Palestinian Prisoners Club said Israel had reinstated the sentence, but the IDF made no comment on the matter at the time.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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