Nael Barghouti, longest-serving Palestinian political prisoner in Israel

Nov 21,2019

The Palestinian Mandela, Nael Barghouti, spent a total of 40 years inside Israeli prisons, making him the longest serving Palestinian political prisoner.

By Ihab Rimawi

Nael Barghouti, 62, was arrested by the Israeli occupation forces when he was only 20 years old. He was released in prisoner swap, placed under town-arrest and rearrested 31 months later.

Barghouti, from the village of Kobar, northeast of Ramallah, was first arrested on 18 December 1977 for resisting the Israeli occupation. He was sentenced to three months in prison. Nevertheless, 14 days after his release, he was re-arrested and later sentence to life in prison plus 18 years.

Except for 31 months he spent out of prison between 2011 and 2014 during which he got married to Iman Nafe, Barghouti does not know how much longer he can survive behind bars.

Barghouti was released in 2011 in a prisoners’ exchange deal reached between the Palestinian resistance group Hamas and Israeli occupation. He was nevertheless placed under town arrest after his release and had his movement restricted to his village only.

He got married to Nafe a month after his release thinking that he is going to have a normal life again and raise a family.

But this did not last. He was re-arrested in 2014 and had his previous life sentence plus 18 years reinstated.

Nafe, Barghouti’s wife, is the only one who can visit him in his prison cell since he did not have any children after his marriage.

“Since his nephew Saleh Barghouti was killed (by the army several months ago), his sister Hanan has been banned from visiting him,” she said, making her the only one who can visit her husband in prison.

Hanan, 55, began to visit him when she was only 14 years old. Her other brother, Omar, and her father were also serving time in prison for their resistance activities.

“I used to visit Nael alone,” she said. “My mother would go and visit my father in another prison and my sister-in-law would go and visit her husband, my brother Omar, in a third prison.”

Barghouti’s father died in October 2004 and a year later his mother died, leaving Hanan the only one who can visit him at that time even though she was also denied visitation for five years before his release in the exchange.

“His re-arrest was very difficult for us,” Barghouti’s wife, Iman Nafe, said. “It came like a shock to me and his family. We haven’t had enough of him and he hasn’t been able to breath freedom long enough. He thought that the whole thing was over.”

For the moment, Barghouti’s wife and sister hope that they will see him again out of prison, hopefully in another prisoners’ exchange.



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