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Barghouti Trial Under Way in Tel Aviv - 2002-09-05

The trial of a senior Palestinian leader accused by Israel of masterminding deadly attacks is under way in Tel Aviv. Marwan Barghouti told an Israeli court that he does not recognize Israel's right to prosecute him.

Mr. Barghouti, the head of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction in the West Bank, says he is a political leader, not a criminal.

He says he is representing himself to emphasize his claim that Israel has no legal jurisdiction over him.

Addressing the Tel Aviv district court in fluent Hebrew, Mr. Barghouti told a three-judge panel that he is a democratically elected member of the Palestinian parliament. He said this fact meant it was a violation of international law for him to stand trial in an Israel court.

"I do not recognize this court," he said. "This is a court of occupation."

Mr. Barghouti, 43, is the highest-ranking Palestinian official to be tried by Israel. He is accused of having orchestrated attacks that killed dozens of Israelis, following the start of the Palestinian uprising two years ago.

Meanwhile, Israel braced itself for more attacks by Palestinian militants as preparations were under way for the start of the Jewish New Year.

Earlier, Israeli police detonated a 600-kilogram car bomb. The vehicle was discovered in the northern town of Hadera, close to the West Bank, and also contained two barrels with fuel and metal fragments. Israeli police say the bomb was designed to be triggered by a cell phone.

In an incident in the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian sniper was killed after he opened fire on Israeli troops, wounding two soldiers.