Israel released Palestinian Cabinet Minister Mohammad al-Barghouti on Monday after detaining him for about six weeks.  Barghouti is the fourth Cabinet minister to be released. Another four ministers and some 20 Hamas MPs are still behind bars.


Barghouti was arrested along with dozens of Palestinian officials, ministers and lawmakers following a June 25 cross-border raid by Hamas and other resistance groups..

"They did not find anything against me. This is a political arrest. All the other ministers and lawmakers should be released too," Barghouti told Reuters by telephone after he was set free from an Israeli prison in Jerusalem.

According to Reuters Press, one of his lawyers, Ahmed Safeyyeh, stated that Barghouti was not charged with any crime. Moreover, he added that Israel did not have the right to try him because he was a minister.

Barghouti said he did not belong to Hamas but that he was close to the group

Among those ministers and lawmakers still imprisoned is, the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Dr. Aziz Dweik. His arrest was strongly condemned by the The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.  The PCHR stated that, it "views the detention of the PLC Speaker as a form of reprisal and collective punishment against Palestinian civilians, which are prohibited in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In addition, the Centre views this detention as another step in the attempts to undermine the results of the free and democratic elections held in the Occupied Palestinian Territory on 25 January 2006"..

Dr. Aziz Dweik was arrested by IOF five times in the past, and spent four years in IOF prisons. He was also deported to Marj El-Zohur for a year at the end of 1992 with other Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists.

On 29 June 2006, IOF detained eight Cabinet Ministers and 21 PLC members from Hamas. In addition, IOF detained Hamas political activists during the same campaign. And on 6 July 2006, IOF detained the second deputy speaker of the PLC, Dr. Hasan Khreisha on El-Karama International Border Crossing. He was released on 30 July 2006 after posting a 10,000 New Israeli Shekel bail. The IOF also released the Minister for Prisoners’ Affairs, Mr. Wasfi Qabha, at the end of last week. But most cabinet ministers and PLC members remain under detention.

These detentions came after the Israeli government threatened to assassinate or detain Hamas political leaders in the aftermath of the Palestinian paramilitary operation against an IOF outpost near Karm Abu Salem Crossing, east of Rafah, on 25 June 2006.

There have been many concerns about the health of Dr. Dweik who was rushed to a hospital on Monday, suffering chest pains and fatigue.  It is assumed that he had become ill due to abuse during interrogation. On Tuesday night Dr. Dweik was taken from  from Tshari Tesedeq hospital in Jerusalem to Kfar Youna prison, inside the Green Line, under very severe security measures.

The PLC speaker’s legal advisor Advocate Essam Abdeen who was not allowed to ever visit Dweik, met him while he was moving from the Israeli hospital to the prison. He was allowed to speak with him briefly and quickly.

Abdeen said that Dwiek, who was handcuffed and shackled, was pale and very exhausted and put under strict security measures.