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MP from Turkey’s main opposition party calls for release of Palestinian leader Barghouti

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A senior lawmaker from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has called for the release of Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, describing his continued detention by Israel a major impediment to Palestinian political unity, in an article he wrote for the Middle East Eye.

Oğuz Kaan Salıcı, an MP for Istanbul and member of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, emphasized Barghouti’s potential role in resolving the political deadlock in Palestine.

“Marwan Barghouti is a key figure capable of breaking the political deadlock in Palestine,” Salıcı said, highlighting Barghouti’s substantial influence in public opinion polls across the West Bank and Gaza.

Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian political leader born in 1959 in the West Bank village of Kobar, has been imprisoned by Israel for his involvement in deadly attacks since 2002.

Salıcı criticized the lack of Palestinian elections since 2006, attributing the ongoing political representation gap to fears that Israel would not allow voting in occupied East Jerusalem. This situation, he argued, undermines the legitimacy of the Palestinian leadership and hinders democratic accountability and transparency.

The CHP lawmaker also addressed the broader context of Israeli policies, pointing out the erosion of democratic values in Israel due to the rise of far-right forces and the increasing marginalization and criminalization of dissent. Salıcı underscored Barghouti’s critique of these developments, noting his calls for national dialogue and unity among Palestinians.

Barghouti’s imprisonment, under harsh conditions including reports of torture and isolation, has drawn widespread condemnation. “The continued detention of a secular politician, seen as a symbol of peace and cherished by his people, challenges our civilization’s commitment to shared human rights,” Salıcı said.

A key figure in the First and Second Intifadas, Barghouti initially supported the peace process but became disillusioned after 2000. Despite his imprisonment since 2002, he remains influential within Fatah and among Palestinians.

The First Intifada (1987-1993) was a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation marked by mass protests, civil disobedience and grassroots organization, leading to significant international attention and the Oslo Accords in 1993. The Second Intifada (2000-2005), triggered by then-leader of the Likud Party Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, was characterized by intense violence, including suicide bombings that severely undermined the peace process and resulted in high casualties and destruction.

Barghouti’s trial and conviction for murder, resulting in five life sentences, have been controversial, with claims of an unfair trial. Advocates, including his wife, continue to campaign for his release, viewing him as a potential unifying leader for Palestine.

The appeal from Salıcı comes amid Israel’s ongoing military campaign in Gaza and reports of settler violence in the West Bank.

In October 2023 Tel Aviv declared the country was at war after an unprecedented Hamas incursion that resulted in the death of 1,200 people in the country and the taking of some 250 hostages.

At least 37,396 Palestinians have been killed and 85,000 wounded in Israel’s ongoing offensive on the Gaza Strip since October, the health ministry in the besieged enclave said on Wednesday.

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