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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 June, 2004, 12:08 GMT 13:08 UK
Barghouti given five life terms
Barghouti goes to court for sentencing
Barghouti (l) said the intifada will bring Palestinian independence
One of the leaders of the Palestinian uprising, Marwan Barghouti, has been given five consecutive life sentences by an Israeli court.

Barghouti, 45, had been widely seen as a potential successor to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

He denied any part in ambushes staged by his militant Fatah faction that killed five people in 2001 and 2002.

To applause from his supporters, he told the Israeli judges on Sunday: "Our people will defeat this occupation."

Throughout his case, he has denied the legitimacy of the Israeli court, insisting he is not a criminal but an elected politician as a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat condemned the ruling.

The Israeli courts are a partner to the Israeli occupation. The judges are just like pilots who fly planes and drop bombs
Marwan Barghouti

"Israeli courts have no jurisdiction over an elected Palestinian official like Marwan Barghouti or anybody else, and we demand his immediate release," Mr Erekat said.

Peace activists protested against the trial outside the court house, shouting, "Peace will come when terror ends."

Barghouti's lawyer said he would not appeal.

Intifada praise

In a tiny court room, Barghouti made his last public appearance for some time, the BBC's Matthew Price reports from outside the court house.

Dressed in dark brown prison overalls, Barghouti dominated the short hearing, asking politely to speak and doing so despite a number of requests from the judges to sit down.

He said he did not recognise the court's authority.

No matter how many they arrest or kill, they will not break the determination of the Palestinian people
Marwan Barghouti
"The Israeli courts are a partner to the Israeli occupation," he said. "The judges are just like pilots who fly planes and drop bombs."

And he restated his opposition to Israel's occupation and the continuation of the Palestinian uprising, the intifada.

"The continuation of the intifada is the only path to independence. This occupation is the ugliest colonial occupation that humanity has known, but this occupation is dying and they had better start preparing for its funeral," he told the court.

"No matter how many they arrest or kill, they will not break the determination of the Palestinian people."

After finally silencing him, the judge said Marwan Barghouti would serve five consecutive life sentences for murder and a further 40 years for attempted murder and membership of a terrorist organisation.

Pragmatic

Before his arrest in April 2002 he was a major figure in the current intifada.

Last month, Barghouti 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.

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 conviction will bolster his popularity, second only to that of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, even further.

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

A fluent Hebrew-speaker, Marwan Barghouti is seen by most Israelis as a terrorist, but for many years before he took on his prominent role in the uprising, he was involved in negotiations with the Israelis, our correspondent says.

Many diplomats view him as a pragmatic Palestinian leader, a man with whom it might be possible one day to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East, he says.


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The BBC's Matthew Price
"Marwan Barghouti doesn't recognise the courts legitimacy"



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