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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 December, 2004, 23:20 GMT
Palestinian candidate 'beaten up'
Barhouti surrounded by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank town of Hebron
Barghouti has complained that Israel is hampering the election
A candidate in January's Palestinian presidential election says he has been detained and beaten by Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint.

Mustafa Barghouti, 50, an activist and cousin of jailed candidate Marwan Barghouti, said he was hurt in an incident near the town of Jenin.

He said soldiers hit him and pinned him to the ground with rifles after he complained about language they used.

The Israeli army would not comment on reports of a violent incident.

Mr Barghouti is a democracy and human rights activist who is standing as an independent outsider in the Palestinian presidential election scheduled for 9 January.

The Israeli army said Mr Barghouti and his companions had refused the soldiers' request for a routine identification check.

Chest injuries

Mr Barghouti said he intervened after scuffles broke out between soldiers and his bodyguards.

"Soldiers started cursing us and beating the people with me.

"I tried to defend them and then suddenly they attacked me on the neck and the back and beat me with guns," he told the Associated Press news agency.

Earlier in the day Mr Barghouti insisted that Israel was not allowing Palestinian candidates free travel throughout the West Bank and Gaza before the election, despite pledges to relax military restrictions.

He announced his candidacy for the presidency, vacant since the death of Yasser Arafat last month, with a pledge to root out corruption in the Palestinian Authority and to strengthen the rule of law.

Mr Barghouti has been a critic of the Palestinian intifada, and favours peaceful resistance to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

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