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Report: Jailed leader to run for Palestinian Authority president

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Yasser Arafat

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Marwan Barghouti, the popular Palestinian leader currently imprisoned by Israel on terrorism charges, plans to run for president of the Palestinian Authority, Israel Radio reported Thursday.

The candidacy of Barghouti could pose a major challenge to Mahmoud Abbas, who succeeded the late Yasser Arafat as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The move also has the potential of splitting Arafat's Fatah movement.

On April 15, 2002, Barghouti was apprehended by the Israeli army in Ramallah on charges he planned or participated in lethal attacks on Israelis.

In June, an Israeli court sentenced Barghouti to five consecutive life terms and an additional 40 years in prison for his role in attacks that killed five Israelis.

At the time, the Palestinian Authority said it didn't recognize the jurisdiction of the Israeli court in the Barghouti case, and called its decision "illegal and void."

Israel accused Barghouti of heading several militant groups in the West Bank, including the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant offshoot of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. The U.S. State Department has designated it as a foreign terrorist organization.

Israel also says Barghouti took orders from Arafat and is not the political activist he claimed to be.

Barghouti, fluent in Hebrew because of his time in Israeli jails, had at one point been touted by Israeli leaders as a Palestinian leader they could deal with.

Polls taken on the West Bank show his popularity has been growing since his arrest.

Barghouti joined Fatah as a teenager. When the first Palestinian uprising against occupation broke out in 1987, Barghouti helped direct the movement from across the border in Jordan, where Israel had deported him that year.

He returned with an olive branch in 1994 under the Oslo peace accords and became a member of the Palestinian legislative council developing ties with Israeli politicians and peace activists.

The second intifada broke out in 2000 after peace talks broke down.

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