MIDDLE EAST: An Israeli court yesterday sentenced Mr Marwan Barghouti, a leading figure in the Palestinian uprising who is viewed by some as a possible successor to Yasser Arafat, to five life terms and 40 years for his role in attacks that killed five people, writes Peter Hirschberg in Jerusalem
Mr Barghouti (45), who was given the maximum sentence and is the most senior Palestinian to be tried by Israel, retained the defiant pose he has adopted throughout the trial, refusing to recognise the authority of the Israeli justice system. "The Israeli courts are a partner to the Israeli occupation," he said in a statement, before the verdict was read out. "The judges are just like pilots who fly planes and drop bombs." He was convicted last month of involvement in attacks that resulted in the deaths of four Israelis and a Greek monk. He was given two consecutive terms of 20 years each for membership in a terror group and involvement in a car bombing in Jerusalem that failed.
Israel accused him of being a prominent figure in the armed Fatah-related al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. He was seized by Israeli soldiers two years ago in the Ramallah area and put on trial for involvement in the deaths of 26 Israelis and for funnelling money to militants. At the time of his capture, he was head of Fatah in the West Bank and a member of the Palestinian parliament.
Mr Barghouti has a strong following in the West Bank where he is viewed as an authentic, grassroots leader. His imprisonment, many Palestinians have predicted, will boost his popularity.