On the 13th anniversary of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, it has been revealed that Israeli courts have issued 700 life sentences for Palestinian prisoners across occupied Palestine since 2000.
Fuad Al-Khuffash, the director of Ahrar Centre for Human Rights and Prisoners' Studies, said that around 300 of these prisoners were released in a swap deal between Hamas and the Israeli authorities. The deal was mediated by the German and Egyptian governments in October 2011.
According to Ahrar, 537 prisoners with life sentences are still inside Israeli jails, including 430 who were sentenced during the second Intifada. Al-Khuffash pointed out that many of the confessions leading to such sentences were obtained through torture and the deprivation of proper health care.
In response to Israeli claims that the prisoners deserved life sentences, the Ahrar director, a former prisoner himself, noted that any Palestinian convicted of killing and Israeli or a collaborator is sentenced automatically to spend the rest of his life in jail, even though most prisoners deny the charges against them.
Someone like Abdullah al-Barghouti received 67 life sentences for allegedly killing 67 Israelis. "Unlike other countries around the world," Al-Khuffash explained, "the Israeli occupation authorities do not recognise the 20 or 25 year limit of life sentence, so it can keep the conviction and imprisonment open-ended."
Cousins Kareem and Maher Younis from the part of Palestine occupied in 1948 have, said Ahrar, spent more than 30 consecutive years behind bars. The only member of the Palestinian Legislative Council to have been sentenced to life imprisonment is Marwan al-Barghouti, who was elected whilst in prison. He was one of the prominent leaders of Al-Aqsa Intifada and was given seven life sentences.