21 maggio 2004
Marwan Barghouti: ready to die in prison but would never give up his struggle
Friday 21 May 2004
Intifada 'will continue'
TEL AVIV: Palestinian firebrand Marwan Barghouti defiantly accused Israel of trying to quench the intifada when a Tel Aviv court found him guilty yesterday on several counts of murder in the uprising's highest-profile trial.
The West Bank Fatah chief told the court in Hebrew he was ready to die in prison but would never give up his struggle.
And one of his lawyers said Barghouti would not appeal against any sentence he is given.
The prosecution recommended that Barghouti, still tipped by many as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's successor, receive five life sentences for murder and another 40 years for attempted murder when he appears for sentencing on June 6, his 45th birthday.
Barghouti, also a member of the Palestinian parliament, was convicted by the Tel Aviv District Court for direct responsibility in four attacks that killed five people. He had been charged with 26 counts of murder.
Immediately afterwards, he vowed there would be no end to the intifada as long as the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip continues.
"So long as the occupation continues, the intifada will not stop.
"As long as the Palestinian mothers are weeping, Israeli mothers will also weep," warned Barghouti, who was charged with heading the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed offshoot of Arafat's mainstream Fatah group that has carried out a string of deadly anti-Israeli attacks.
The group he allegedly created and headed until his April 2002 capture promised to abduct Israeli soldiers to negotiate Barghouti's release.
"We will make the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers our number one priority for the release of Marwan Barghouti and to release all our leaders and prisoners in Israeli jails," a spokesman for the group said.
Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade said it would kidnap Israeli soldiers to secure the release of West Bank Fatah chief Marwan Barghouti.
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Fri., May 21, 2004 Sivan 1, 5764
Israel Time: 01:46 (GMT+3)
Analysis / Jail was a good career move for Marwan
By Danny Rubinstein
As expected, Palestinian reactions to the court's ruling in the case of Marwan Barghouti were uniform: They described the trial as a political show trial of a Palestinian leader and said that sooner or later, Israel will be forced to release him from prison and negotiate.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the first person to comment from Yasser Arafat's office, termed the verdict yet another crime by the Israeli government. He reiterated the claim made by Barghouti and his associates on numerous occasions: that the Israeli court has no authority - legal, ethical or political - to try Barghouti, a Palestinian member of parliament and a political leader.
As soon as the verdict was announced, a demonstration was organized in Ramallah with tens of thousands of participants, including members of Barghouti's family. The Palestinian Legislative Council published an official parliamentary decision declaring the verdict void and Barghouti a national hero who was jailed because he fought for the liberation of his people. Official Palestinian spokesmen sought to turn the verdict into a tool for rallying international support for the Palestinian struggle and called on parliamentarians all over the world to assist them in gaining the release of two jailed Palestinian legislators - Barghouti and Husam Khader.
Beyond the obvious political commentaries offered in public, in private, some said, with a note of cynicism, that Barghouti fared well out of two years in Israeli prison. Sitting in jail turned him into a well-known and popular leader. For some time now, he has regularly attained the number two spot after Arafat in public opinion polls in the territories.
Another potential political advantage of being jailed stems from the fact that other potential heirs to Arafat have found themselves in hot water. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), who had been seen as the obvious successor to Arafat in recent years, lost out as a result of his short-lived tenure as prime minister. Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) is finding it difficult to fulfill his role as prime minister and lacks broad public support in the territories. Jibril Rajoub and Mohammad Dahlan are up to their necks in internal power struggles.
Thus Barghouti enjoys the best of all worlds. He is popular, among other reasons, because he is not seen as personally corrupt. He is viewed as a simple son of the people, honest, ambitious and politically brave. He has close ties with groups that rival Fatah, most importantly Hamas, and from behind bars was one of the organizers of the hudna (cease-fire) during Abu Mazen's tenure as prime minister.
Palestinian publications sometimes refer to Barghouti as the "architect of the intifada," and in an interview with Haaretz after the outbreak of fighting in the fall of 2000 he was asked whether he and his followers would heed Arafat's call to end the fighting. "The intifada will not end with an order, as it was not started by an order," he replied.
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