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Israeli Court Convicts Palestinian Intifada Leader Barghouti - 2004-05-20

An Israeli Court has convicted a leader of the Palestinian uprising for orchestrating the killing of five people. The court said that in some cases it was at the direction of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. Prosecutors are asking the court to sentence the leader, Marwan Barghouti, to five consecutive life terms.

The Tel Aviv District Court found Barghouti guilty of three attacks in which five Israelis were murdered, in some cases under the guidance of Mr. Arafat. The three judges on the panel said in their verdict that Mr. Arafat would never give explicit instructions for attacks, but he let it be known when the timing was right.

Barghouti was also convicted of attempted murder and belonging to a terror organization. The court acquitted him of involvement in 33 other attacks, saying there was no evidence to prove he was a full partner to those acts of violence.

The 43-year-old Barghouti, remained defiant as he was led into the courtroom by three policemen. Raising his shackled hands, he shouted in Arabic, "This court is completely illegal!"

He was arrested in 2002 and charged with leading dozens of terror operations against Israelis as the leader of Mr. Arafat's Fatah faction in the West Bank.

Israeli prosecutors charged him with funding and planning terror attacks by the armed wings of Fatah and said he was not simply a political activist as he claimed to be.

Barghouti was a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and some observers saw him as a potential successor to Mr. Arafat. He is popular, especially among the younger members of Fatah, an organization listed by the State Department as a terrorist group.

Arab members of the Israeli parliament, who viewed the proceedings, told reporters Barghouti was too important a political figure to be held for long, and predicted he would be released as part of future political negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The court is to sentence him at a later date.