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Friday, April 16, 1999 Published at 23:30 GMT 00:30 UK

World: Middle East

Pig's head extremist jailed

Al-Aqsa mosque compound: Islam's holiest site in Jerusalem

An Israeli court has sentenced a Jewish militant, Chaim Pakovitch, to 42 months imprisonment for plotting to throw a pig's head into Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem.

The right-wing ultra-nationalist was convicted of criminal conspiracy and sedition for a plot to hurl a pig's head - with the Koran stuffed in its mouth - into the complex housing the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa mosque.

The court said it had imposed a stiff sentence to deter others from trying to set off a religious war.

The defendant was arrested with an alleged accomplice in December 1997.

The act was to be carried out during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when thousands of worshipers would have been at the compound.

Muslims regard pigs as unclean.

Curse on Rabin

Pakovitch was also convicted of placing a pig's head on the tomb of the Palestinian resistance fighter, Shaykh Izz-al-Din al-Qassam, in Haifa, and of setting fire to the offices of a peace group in Jerusalem.

Sentencing will be carried out at a later date.

The verdict on his accomplice, Avigdor Eskin, is to be handed down on 12 April.

Mr Eskin served four months in jail in 1997 for placing a curse on the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, two weeks before he was assassinated by another right-wing extremist in November 1995.

Two years ago, clashes between Israelis and Palestinians broke out after an Israeli woman posted drawings depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed as a pig.

She was sentenced to two years in jail and her actions brought condemnation from across the Muslim world.

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