Abbas calls for the release of Marwan Barghouti and other prisoners
60% of Palestinians would vote Barghouti as president. For Israel, he is a "terrorist" for his fellow countrymen he is the 'Mandela of Palestine’. The peace talks are likely to run aground for the continued expansion of settlements in the Occupied Territories and the failure to release prisoners.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has demanded that Israel free some high profile prisoners, including the leader Marwan Barghouti.

Meeting with Barack Obama a few days ago, he argued that it is impossible to continue the peace talks if Israel does not release many more prisoners than projected.

After being pushed to resume peace talks last July, Israel has agreed to release 104 prisoners. But so far it has feed only 78.

But while taking part in dialogue, Israel is continuing to build and expand settlements in the Occupied Territories, where the freezing of all building is a condition laid down by the Palestinians.

This is why Abbas has decided not to continue the dialogue later than 29 April if Israel does not release all prisoners and promised even more.

There are 5 thousand Palestinians in Israeli prisons, many of them only for security reasons. At least 150 of them are held without charge or trial; another 150 are minors.

Abbas - says Issa Qaraq, Palestinian minister for prisoners - aims above all for the release of Ahmad Saadat of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Fuad Shubaki of the PLO and Marwan Barghouti, leader of the intifada in 2000.

Israel classifies Barghouti as a "terrorist". Not only is he one of the architects of Al Aqsa Intifada in the West Bank, but he has also been accused of complicity in the deaths of four Israelis and a Greek monk. Arrested in 2002 in Ramallah, he was sentenced to several life terms in prison. At his trial, Barghouti forwent any defense because he considered the trial illegal and illegitimate. This attitude has led his countrymen to declare him the 'Mandela of Palestine'.  They see Barghouti as a politician and claim he was not involved directly with the killings.

Marwan Barghouti, 54, was a rising star of the Fatah party and for many is still the real future successor to Abbas to lead the country, capable of uniting and motivating the Palestinian world. According to a survey conducted in mid-2012, at least 60 % of Palestinians want him as their president.