Abbas asks Bush to free terror chief
Alleged architect of 2000 intifada,
Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades founder
By Aaron Klein Posted: October 20, 2005 1:08 p.m. Eastern
JERUSALEM - Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asked President
Bush during his White House meeting today to pressure Israel into releasing
from prison the alleged architect of the 2000 intifada and founder of one of
the most deadly Middle Eastern terror groups, a senior Palestinian official
involved with the talks told WND.
"Abbas asked [Bush] for several things, including the freezing of Israeli
settlement activity and to help with the release of our prisoners," said the
official, speaking just minutes after the conclusion of the White House
meeting. "A special request was made for Israel to release [convicted
terrorist Marwan] Barghouti."
Abbas met Bush for one hour today in a summit many say was designed to boost
the Palestinian leader's popularity ahead of January legislative elections
in which Hamas is expected to run.
During a joint news conference after the meeting, Bush heaped praise on
Abbas, saying he was a "heck of a lot more confident" of peace prospects
with Abbas in charge.
Bush also called on Abbas to disarm Palestinian terror groups he said are
threatening the "creation of a democratic Palestine" and said Israel should
halt construction of new Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
The Palestinian official said Bush agreed to take into consideration the
request to pressure Israel into releasing Barghouti and other Palestinian
Barghouti, a founder of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, is serving multiple
life terms in an Israeli prison for his role in the killings of four
Israelis and a Greek monk. Israel accuses Barghouti of planning the
Palestinian intifada that erupted in 2000 after PLO leader Yasser Arafat
turned down a comprehensive Israeli peace offer at Camp David that year.
Barghouti is suspected of planning dozens of suicide bombings and shooting
Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat, also speaking to WND minutes after
the conclusion of the Bush-Abbas meeting, confirmed a request was made for
Bush to help in freeing Palestinian prisoners.
"I will not comment on whether Barghouti was singled out, but yes, gaining
the freedom of prisoners in Israeli cells was on today's agenda," said
Barghouti this week announced from prison his plans to run in the upcoming
Palestinian elections. Palestinian Minister for Prisoner Affairs Sufian Abu
Zaida said Barghouti would be on the list of candidates from Abba's Fatah
party for a possible parliamentary seat.
Last year, there were a series of media reports Israel may release Barghouti
in a prisoner exchange that also would involve the U.S. freeing imprisoned
Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
Pollard told WND at the time he was "completely opposed" to the possibility
of being released alongside Barghouti, whom he refers to as "a mass murderer
Pollard also quoted reports, which he said were confirmed to him by sources
in Israel, that the Jewish state held a series of clandestine meetings with
Barghouti regarding the possibility of the convicted terrorist running in
Erekat told WND Israel should free Barghouti.
"Israel had no jurisdiction to arrest a Palestinian official and try him in
Israel," said Erekat. "He should be released."
Aaron Klein is WorldNetDaily's Jerusalem bureau chief, whose past interview
subjects have included Yasser Arafat, Ehud Barak, Mahmoud al-Zahar and
leaders of the Taliban.