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Palestinian Rebellion Organizer on Trial Invokes Sharon's Statement on 'Occupation' - 2003-06-02


A leader of the Palestinian uprising who is on trial for murder has used Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent statement using the term "occupation" in his defense.

The man on trial, Marwan Barghouti, is one of the main organizers of the 32-month-old Palestinian rebellion against Israeli rule. He is charged with multiple counts of murder of Israelis.

In remarks to a Tel Aviv court, Mr. Barghouti invoked the words of Mr. Sharon in his defense.

Mr. Barghouti said that, if the Israeli prime minister can describe Israel's military presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as an "occupation," then it is only logical for the Palestinians to mount resistance.

He was referring to Mr. Sharon's unprecedented remarks last week, in which he used the word "occupation" in referring to the presence of Israeli soldiers in Palestinian areas.

Mr. Sharon added that Israel had no wish to rule over some 3.5 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Mr. Barghouti also referred to the planned summit on Wednesday in Jordan between U.S. President George W. Bush and the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers. He predicted that Mr. Sharon would use the opportunity to recognize a Palestinian state.

Mr. Barghouti said a statement to this effect from Israel would further underline what he sees as the legitimate right of Palestinians to resist occupation.

He quoted Mr. Sharon shortly before Israeli prosecutors made their closing arguments in the case.

During the trial, Mr. Barghouti, who until his arrest a year ago was a leader of Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, has also repeatedly refused to recognize that Israel has any right to try him.

Most Palestinian suspects are tried before Israeli military courts, but the Israeli government decided to make an example of Mr. Barghouti by bringing him before a panel of civilian judges.

The court on gave Mr. Barghouti until July 14 to decide if he wants to conduct a defense before the trial moves to the stage of delivering a verdict.

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