Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (photo) has ruled out freeing Fatah's Marwan Barghuti in exchange for captive Franco-Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Barghuti was imprisoned for life for his role in the second Palestinian intifada of 2000.
AFP - Israel's ultra-nationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday ruled out freeing one of the Palestinians' most popular leaders in exchange for captive soldier Gilad Shalit.
"I can guarantee to you that (Marwan) Barghuti will not be released," Lieberman said in a radio interview rebroadcast by public television.
"We have no intention of releasing him because he is not just a murderer, he is a king of murderers."
Marwan Barghuti, who was elected to the governing body of the secular Fatah party of Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in August, is currently serving five life sentences for murder for his role in the second Palestinian intifada that erupted in 2000.
He is widely seen as the uprising's architect, although he has said he opposed attacks on civilians inside Israel, including the scores of suicide bombers sent in by armed groups.
During his time behind bars, the man once seen as the natural successor to the iconic leader Yasser Arafat and today to Abbas has remained highly popular on the Palestinian street.
Late last month he told an Italian newspaper that he believed that he was on a list of hundreds of prisoners whose release the Islamist Hamas movement which controls Gaza is demanding in exchange for Shalit.
"Yes, I hope that this time we are there," he told the Corriere della Sera daily.
"Some of our prisoners will at last be freed: those that no negotiations have managed to get out of prison," he said. "I am also part of this list."
Asked about Israeli reaction to the possibility that he could head the Palestinian Authority, he said Israel had "decided it will not negotiate with Barghuti as president".
"But one should not worry, there are no elections for the moment," he said.
Abbas has announced he will not stand for a second term in elections due next year because of obstacles to the process to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Barghuti said Abbas had been mistaken to place the emphasis only on negotiations and to have "believed US and Israeli promises".
The result of US President Barack Obama's year in government has been "a big zero", he said.
Shalit, who holds both Israeli and French nationality, was captured in June 2006 when three Gaza militant groups, including Hamas, tunnelled out of the territory and attacked an Israeli army post, killing two other soldiers.
Date created : 2009-12-03