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Palestinians urge boycott of Israeli military courts after freed prisoner rearrested

Freed Palestinian Barghouthi rearrested; military court reinstates original sentence of life plus 18 years
Iman Nafie, wife of Palestinian prisoner Nael Barghouthi, speaks during a news conference in Ramallah (AFP)

Palestinian officials on Sunday called for a boycott of Israeli military courts after a Palestinian freed in a 2011 prisoner exchange was rearrested and sent back to prison for life.

Speaking in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian Prisoners Club head Qadura Fares called on detainees' families and Palestinian organisations to stop taking part in military trials and to refuse to pay convicts' fines, which he said amounted to $6m in 2016.

Palestinians captured by Israeli security forces are generally brought before the army courts, where defence lawyers say they are often not notified of the charges against their clients or allowed to meet them before the trial.

"Palestinian movements and prisoners' families must choose boycott," Fares told a news conference.

"One must take the difficult decision of rebellion and boycott" of the courts, Issa Qaraqe, head of the Palestinian Authority's commission for detainees, added.

He noted that the same military court system on Tuesday sentenced an Israeli soldier to 18 months in prison for the manslaughter of a Palestinian he shot dead as the man lay wounded on the ground.

The United Nations said the sentence was an "unacceptable" punishment for "an apparent extra-judicial killing".

"Such courts must be boycotted," Qaraqe said on Sunday.

In contrast, he said, was the case of Palestinian Nael Barghouthi, sentenced to life imprisonment by Israel in 1978 for what the Israeli army said was "a series of security offences, including murder".

He was among more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners freed by Israel in 2011 in exchange for the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured five years earlier by Palestinian militants and held in the Gaza Strip.

"After his release, Barghouthi renewed his involvement in terrorist activity, violating his terms of release," the army told AFP on Sunday.

He was rearrested and on Wednesday a military court reinstated his original sentence of life plus 18 years.

According to a report by the Palestinian Authority and the Prisoners Club, 85 of the Palestinians freed in the 2011 swap have since been rearrested by Israel with 65 sent back to prison for life.

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