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(photo credit: AP [file])
Imprisoned Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti appealed Wednesday to the kidnappers of BBC journalist Alan Johnston to release him immediately, calling him a "friend" of the Palestinians.
Johnston, 44, was abducted by Palestinian gunmen in Gaza City on March 12 and has not been seen or heard from since then. He has been held longer than any other journalist.
"From my cell, and in the name of 10,000 prisoners in the occupation jails, I appeal and call immediately for the release of journalist Alan Johnston, the friend of the Palestinian people," Barghouti said in a statement sent to reporters.
Last week, a previously unknown Palestinian group claimed it had executed Johnston, but there has been no confirmation of that.
In his statement, Barghouti denounced kidnapping and attacks on civilians, saying they harm the interests of the Palestinians and their struggle for statehood.
Barghouti, the West Bank leader of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement, is serving five consecutive life terms in an Israeli prison for his role in shooting attacks that killed four Israelis and a Greek monk.