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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 May, 2004, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Palestinian leader found guilty
Barghouti goes to court for verdict
Barghouti (l) has said he is proud of the intifada
An Israeli court has found Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti guilty of five murders in Israel and the West Bank.

Barghouti, whose trial began two years ago, was charged over his alleged role as leader of the militant al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.

After the conviction prosecutors asked the court in the city of Tel Aviv to hand down five life sentences.

Barghouti has rejected the court's right to try him, saying the intifada - or uprising - is a legitimate struggle.

He was convicted specifically for organising four suicide attacks, three of them successful, which led to the deaths of four Israelis and a Greek Orthodox monk .

But he was also acquitted of masterminding attacks which led to the deaths of 21 others.

Speaking in court after the verdict, Barghouti said he was against the killing of innocents but that Palestinians had to oppose the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

He said, however, that it was not correct to carry out suicide attacks.


There are reports that Palestinians in the West Bank town of Ramallah have been marching in protest at Barghouti's detention and the verdict against him.

He rose through the ranks of Yasser Arafat's Fatah organisation and has credibility among ordinary people, especially in the West Bank.

It is thought that the guilty verdict will bolster his popularity, second only to that of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, even further.

Unlike many among the Palestinian leadership, he is relatively youthful at 43.

He is untainted by accusations of corruption and is admired for his uncompromising calls to fight the Israeli occupation.

Correspondents say he is also a fluent Hebrew-speaker, and despite the verdict, some in Israel view him with interest as a possible future negotiating partner, as he initially backed the Israeli-Palestinian peace accords.

Barghouti has denied any responsibility for the deaths of those murdered by the group he is alleged to have commanded.

Most Palestinians believe that the verdict of the Tel Aviv District Court will only serve to enhance his status.

The BBC's Jim Fish
"He denounced the proceedings as a show trial"

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