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Israeli Court Sentences Palestinian Uprising Leader to 5 Life Terms - 2004-06-06


An Israeli court has sentenced a man described as the leader of the Palestinian uprising to five consecutive life terms plus 40 years in jail for his role in attacks that killed four Israelis and a Greek Orthodox monk.

The district court in Tel Aviv handed down the highest possible sentence against Marwan Barghouti, who was convicted of the murder of five civilians in three separate terror attacks.

Barghouti, who is 45, has been ordered to remain behind bars for the rest of his natural life.

A panel of three judges sentenced him to life imprisonment for each of five murders - the killing of a Greek Orthodox monk, mistaken for a Jew in 2001, an Israeli in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and three people in a Tel Aviv restaurant in 2002.

He was also given two 20-year sentences, one for attempted murder in a botched car bombing at a Jerusalem shopping mall, and the other for belonging to a terror organization.

Two years ago, Israeli troops arrested Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian parliament, and the leader of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction in the West Bank.

Israel accused Barghouti of playing a leading role in the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, the armed wing of Fatah. The group is accused of carrying out scores of shooting and bombing attacks, during more than three years of fighting against Israel.

Barghouti, who has denied involvement in violence, said he did not recognize the court's authority to convict and sentence him.

He said the Israeli court system is nothing more than a partner to what he called the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, also said the Israeli courts did not have jurisdiction over any elected Palestinian official, such as Barghouti. Mr. Erekat demanded his immediate release.

Some observers believe that Barghouti, who is regarded as the logical successor to Mr. Arafat, may be set free during future peace talks with Israel, if they are ever held.

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