Friday, January 27, 2006

14 prisoners in Israeli jails elected

YIGAL GRAYEFF
THE JERUSALEM POST
Jan. 26, 2006

When the new Palestinian Legislative Council meets for the first time, 11% of the members are likely to be absent from the proceedings.

Fourteen security prisoners in Israeli jails are believed to have been elected to the 132-seat parliament, while one inmate of a Palestinian prison was also successful, said Butheina Dukmak, director-general of the Mandela Institute for Human Rights, a prisoner advocacy group.

Of some 9,000 Palestinians serving time in Israeli jails, 31 stood for the PLC, according to figures on the Palestinian Central Elections Commission Web site, with the most important being Fatah's Marwan Barghouti and West Bank Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef.

Barghouti's placing at the head of his party's list all but guaranteed him a seat, although his public intervention in the election via television interviews earlier this week appears to have had little bearing on the results.

Before the vote, Dr. Nabil Kukali of the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion thought Barghouti's popularity among Palestinians would help strengthen Fatah.

"I expected him to bring more support. In all the polls we did, people praised him and said he was honest," said Kukali. "But I think people didn't vote for people on the lists, but voted for Hamas or Fatah."

Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences for his involvement in terrorist attacks that killed five civilians, was largely unable to campaign due to the constraints imposed upon him by prison authorities.

Another prisoner whose influence appears to have been weaker than expected was Abu Ali Yatta, who has been in jail for more than 25 years. His number two placing on Fatah's list also ensured him a seat, with Kukali believing that his popularity in Hebron would strengthen Fatah's support there. However, Hamas took all nine district seats in the city and in total, 12 out of 13 Hamas candidates were elected to the PLC, with Yousef being chosen to represent the Ramallah district.

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