Palestinian leaders have offered up an unlikely candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize: A man serving five life sentences for murder.

Marwan Barghouti, who founded al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and is called “the Palestinian Mandela,” was convicted in 2004 of five counts of murder – including a 2002 attack at a Tel Aviv seafood market in which three civilians were killed. While in prison, he has toyed with running for president and polls suggest he would win if it were up to the voters.

But a Nobel Prize?

“[Barghouti’s] candidacy is essentially a call to recognize the legitimacy of the prisoners' struggle... and also a response to the claims and Israeli terms that do not recognize the legitimacy of their struggle, and treat them as 'terrorists and criminals,’” Issa Karake, head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Commission of Prisoners' Affairs, said earlier this month.

The West Bank-ruling Fatah considers Barghouti’s arrest an “abduction,” and has suggested he should have enjoyed diplomatic immunity because he was previously a member of the Palestinian Authority parliament.

“The Palestinian Authority has claimed for years that they have a right under international law, confirmed by a UN resolution, to kill Israeli civilians in all places and at all times,” said Itamar Marcus, of Palestinian Media Watch. “Accordingly, those Palestinians who have killed Israelis are said to have done something positive and heroic. Palestinian murderers of Israeli civilians are presented as heroes and role models.”

Marcus noted that the victims of the murders Barghouti, 57, was convicted of ordering would not help make his case to the Nobel committee.

·         Yoela Hen, a 45-year-old Israeli woman who was murdered at a gas station in the suburbs of Jerusalem in January 2002.

·         Eli Dahan, Yosef Habim and police officer Sgt.-Maj. Salim Barakat, who were killed during a shooting and stabbing attack at a restaurant in Tel Aviv in March 2002.

·         Tsibouktsakis Germanus, a Greek monk who was gunned down in his car on June 12, 2001.

The PA and Fatah have recruited many of their leaders to campaign for Barghouti.

"We, the Palestinian people, support this initiative, and we think this initiative carries several messages... a judicial message, which is a response to the Israeli claims accusing the prisoners of being terrorists and criminals," Karake said on April 12 according to Official PA TV.

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