Fatah leader says he's handcuffed naked during cell searches

Jailed terror convict Marwan Barghouti petitions against poor prison conditions

Serving multiple life terms for murder, potential successor to Mahmoud Abbas seeks transfer from new facility, where he says he was moved after ostensibly urging PA to fight Israel

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Fatah terror chief Marwan Barghouti, serving five life terms for murder during the Second Intifada, appears in a Jerusalem court, January 25, 2012. (Flash90)
File: Marwan Barghouti appears in a Jerusalem court, January 25, 2012. (Flash90)

Jailed Palestinian terror convict Marwan Barghouti, a leader of the Fatah party, has petitioned an Israeli court to remove him from the isolation wing of a prison he was transferred to last month, alleging mistreatment by guards and poor conditions, including being handcuffed and naked during searches of his cell.

Barghouti, who is seen as a top future candidate to lead the Palestinian Authority, was arrested by Israel in 2002 and is serving five life terms for planning three terror attacks during the Second Intifada that killed five Israelis.

Barghouti claimed he faced abuse by guards and was put in solitary confinement for five days at Ayalon Prison after a statement was released in his name at the beginning of December calling for Palestinian Authority security forces to fight against Israel, the Walla news site reported.

His wife denied he was connected to the statement, the report said.

According to Barghouti’s petition, filed by civil rights lawyer Avigdor Feldman, prison guards came to his cell at Ofer Prison, cuffed his arms and legs, and forced him to walk in a painful stance as he was transferred to Ayalon Prison.

He further alleged that the prison warden punched him and threatened, “I will tear you apart,” before he was transferred.

File: Israeli security forces in front of the entrance to Ofer Prison, outside of Jerusalem, from where Palestinian terror convicts were released as part of a deal between Israel and Hamas, November 26, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Barghouti alleged that conditions were overly harsh, including that he was kept naked and handcuffed while guards conducted searches three times a day.

He said that his cell windows were sealed, making it so dark that it was difficult to go to the bathroom.

Barghouti also complained that he didn’t get enough food, saying he got three small slices of bread, yogurt, two spoons of beans, and three spoonfuls of rice.

Guards also took his mattress, and he has been forced to sleep on the floor, he said.

The Israel Prison Service said in response to the report that it operates strictly according to rules and procedures.

“A response will be given through the usual channels” to the petition, the IPS said.

Barghouti, 64, is often touted as one of top candidates to succeed octogenarian Mahmoud Abbas as leader of the PA. He is especially favored by the younger generation, who perceive him as untainted by the PA’s corruption and collaboration with Israel.

His wife, Fadwa Barghouti, in August announced the launch of an international campaign for her husband’s release, and it was reported in December he could be among prisoners released in exchange for Israeli hostages abducted to Gaza during Hamas’s October 7 massacre.

File: Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, right, and Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, in the West Bank town of Ramallah in this Dec. 31, 2001 photo. (AP Photo/Mohammed Rawas)

According to a recent poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, Barghouti would win by a large margin against both candidates from his own party Fatah and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, making him an appealing choice for a large swath of the Palestinian electorate.

Palestinians have known no other leader than Abbas since he took power in 2004 following the death of Yasser Arafat, even though his term officially expired in 2009. Scheduled elections were repeatedly canceled, most recently in 2021 by the PA leader, who blamed Israel for allegedly refusing to allow East Jerusalem Palestinians to vote. Observers believe Abbas has avoided holding elections for years due to fear of defeat.

Barghouti’s claims come amid an Israeli prison overcrowding crisis and as National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has been engaged in a public effort to oust IPS chief commissioner Katy Perry. Benny Gantz’s National Unity has argued the move would violate the party’s agreement with Likud underpinning the current emergency government.

It also comes on the heels of criticism of the prison service following the fatal beating of a Palestinian security prisoner in November.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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