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Wednesday, 14 August, 2002, 07:25 GMT 08:25 UK
Intifada leader charged with murder
Marwan Barghouti addresses the media at his trial
Barghouti hopes to use the trial as a political platform
Palestinian popular leader Marwan Barghouti has been charged by an Israeli court with murder and belonging to a terrorist organisation.

Israeli authorities arrested Mr Barghouti in April during an Israeli incursion into the West Bank in response to Palestinian suicide attacks on Israeli targets.


Security will only be achieved in one way, by peace, and peace will only be achieved by the end of the occupation

Marwan Barghouti

The hearing in a small courtroom in Tel Aviv lasted only 20 minutes before the judge set a trial date of 5 September. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

Mr Barghouti, handcuffed and dressed in a brown Israeli prison uniform, was defiant throughout proceedings.

His lawyer objected when the prosecutor read out the charges.

The judge silenced Mr Barghouti when he stood up and said in Hebrew that he wanted to present a list of 50 charges against Israel for its occupation of Palestinian territories.

Before the start of the trial Mr Barghouti told reporters that Israel would only find security by ending the occupation of Palestinian territories.

"I am a peaceful man," he said. "I was trying to do everything for peace between the two peoples.

"I believe the best solution is two states for two peoples... Security will only be achieved in one way, by peace, and peace will only be achieved by the end of the occupation."

Lawyers acting for Mr Barghouti say he denies the charges linking him to al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades - a militant offshoot of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement which has claimed responsibility for numerous suicide attacks against Israel.

Fiery speechmaker

Mr Barghouti is the West Bank leader of the Fatah movement and the Tanzim militia.

He is one of the most visible leaders of the Palestinian intifada, known for delivering bellicose speeches to crowds of Palestinians during the early days of the violent uprising that began in September 2000.

Mr Barghouti insists he is only a politician.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade militants
Israel says Barghouti is a militant leader
One of his lawyers, Khader Shkirat said: "He describes his role as that of a political leader, and leader of the uprising, but he does not consider himself responsible for the killings of Israelis."

But Israel accuses him of orchestrating terrorist attacks on Israelis by al-Aqsa members.

Israel's Justice Ministry said Mr Barghouti was the "central partner in the decisions made by organisations that in the last two years carried out a series of attacks that claimed the lives of scores of Israeli citizens and wounded hundreds".

Torture allegations

Israeli officials have claimed that Mr Barghouti admitted his role in the attacks during questioning, a charge his lawyers deny.

Mr Shkirat accuses Israel's authorities of interrogating Mr Barghouti around the clock following his arrest - allowing him to only sleep two hours a night and then only in a chair with his hands tied.

Experts say that Israel will use the trial as a chance to convince the world that the Palestinian Authority is a terrorist organisation.

But Mr Shkirat says "this is a golden opportunity to try the (Israeli) occupation for all the crimes committed against the Palestinian people, and to present the resistance movement as a just movement before the Israeli public and the international community".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"He's a serious player in the complex world of Palestinian politics"

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14 Aug 02 | Middle East
16 Apr 02 | profiles
13 Jun 02 | Middle East
16 Apr 02 | Middle East
30 Jul 01 | profiles
05 Mar 02 | Middle East
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