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      Barghouti´s Popularity Spurs Campaign to Free Him

      Meretz/Yahad, a potential coalition partner for PM Sharon, has called for the release of jailed terrorist Marwan Barghouti. Foreign Minister Shalom vowed Barghouti would stay in jail.

      By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
      First Publish: 11/27/2005, 12:55 PM / Last Update: 11/26/2005, 8:44 PM

      Barghouti won a landslide victory Friday in Ramallah in the Palestinian Authority's Fatah Party primaries, taking 96% of the votes. Fatah voters in five major Arab towns - Shechem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jenin and Tubas - chose candidates to head the party's list in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections scheduled for January 25, 2006.

      Barghouti is likely to lead the list of candidates for the ruling Fatah party, despite the fact that he is serving multiple life terms in an Israeli jail for murder and attempted murder.

      "I think today there is no doubt that he is one of the top leaders in the Palestinian street," said Yossi Beilin, leader of the Meretz/Yahad party. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has stated that if his new Kadima party forms the next government, Meretez/Yahad is a likely coalition partner.

      Beilin backed up his calls for releasing Barghouti by claiming it would help promote democracy in the PA. "Barghouti heads one of the Palestinian camps that do want peace," he said, "and so this is the moment to end his sentence... in preparation for an historical peace agreement with Israel."

      Beilin further said, "Barghouti will be released anyway in some future deal, so why not do it now?"

      Foreign Minister Shalom replied, "We must not forget that he is a cold-blooded murderer who was sentenced by the court to five life sentences." National Religious Party (NRP) Knesset Member Sha'ul Yahalom declared that freeing Barghouti would encourage terror.

      The media frequently have reported there are secret plans to release Barghouti from prison. The Israeli Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot reported this past summer that a secret document has been prepared recommending Barghouti’s release. Similar rumors often have been linked to the possibility of the United States' releasing Jonathan Pollard. Pollard has insisted he will not agree to leave jail as part of a deal to release Arab terrorists.

      Media reports on Saturday quoted an unnamed senior government official as saying, "It is common that peace agreements are accompanied by the release of prisoners, but even then it is not certain that he would be released."

      Other jailed convicted terrorists also won positions as candidates in the PA elections Friday. Running third behind Barghouti is a jailed Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorist, and the Hamas terrorist organization stated that three of its members serving time in Israeli prisons also will run in the elections.

      In Jenin, terrorist Jamal Abu Rob, who nicknamed himself "Hitler," won a high position on the slate of candidates, as did the head of Shechem's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

      IsraelNationalNews' Baruch Gordon contributed to this story.