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 Tuesday, 24 December, 2002, 18:24 GMT
Israel jails Palestinian militant for life
Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades demonstration
Abu Hamid was a leader of the Al-Aqsa Brigades
An Israeli court has jailed a Palestinian militant for seven life terms plus 50 years in a case that could have ramifications in the fate of popular Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti.

Nasser Abu Hamid, who was sentenced on Tuesday in connection with the deaths of seven Israelis, was found to have received arms and ammunition from Mr Barghouti.

The Palestinians have a legitimate right to fight against occupation - I fought

Nasser Abu Hamid
Israeli sources described him as a close aide to Mr Barghouti, who is on trial in Israel on charges of murder, incitement to murder, and belonging to and acting on behalf of a terror organisation.

Mr Barghouti says that under the Oslo accords, Israel does not have the authority to try him.

One of the most popular leaders of the Palestinian uprising, he was seized by Israeli forces in April.

Evidence

Israeli prosecutors are expected to try to use Abu Hamid in their case against him.

Abu Hamid, a leader of the militant Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, was convicted of helping to organise shootings, bombings and suicide attack on Israeli targets.

Jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti
Marwan Barghouti could replace Yasser Arafat
He was seized in April of this year, five days before Israeli forces apprehended Mr Barghouti.

"I have no regrets," Abu Hamid told the court, Reuters news agency reported.

"The Palestinians have a legitimate right to fight against occupation. I fought," he said.

Radical victim

Among the victims linked to Abu Hamid was Binyamin Kahane, son of the late extremist anti-Arab Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Binyamin Kahane - also an anti-Arab radical who was jailed by Israel several times - was shot dead along with his wife in the West Bank in 2000.

Mr Barghouti recently called for a change in the Palestinian leadership.

He is considered one of very few realistic alternatives to Yasser Arafat.

A recent poll suggested he already commands 21% of Palestinian support compared with 35% for Mr Arafat.


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