Barghouti Convicted in Deaths of Five People

The Tel Aviv District Court convicted former West Bank Tanzim commander Marwan Barghouti in the deaths of five people on Thursday.

Barghouti was convicted of three terror attacks in which the five were murdered, as well as in another charge of attempted murder, membership in a terror organization and conspiring to commit a crime.

However, the court acquitted him of 33 other murders with which he was charged, noting that there was no evidence that he was a full partner to those incidents.

The prosecution on Thursday was seeking to sentence Barghouti to five life terms.

Meanwhile, Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv after Barghouti's hearing, holding up a poster of terror victims killed by Palestinians in the last few years.

The court said in its verdict that "the defendant most of the time did not have direct contact with the field operatives who carried out the attacks. That connection was maintained through associates close to the defendant. Barghouti was responsible for providing the field units with money and arms via these associates."

The court ruled that Barghouti was directly responsible for a January 2002 terror attack on a gas station in Givat Zeev in which Israeli Yoela Chen was murdered. The attack, the judges said, was carried out at his direct order in revenge for the assassination of Raed Carmi. Barghouti had admitted his responsibility for this attack.

The attack in which a Greek monk was murdered in Ma'aleh Adumim on June of 2001 was also carried out at the instruction of Barghouti, the judges said.

The former Tanzim leader, the court ruled, also approved the March 2002 attack at Tel Aviv's Seafood Market restaurant in which three people were murdered, as well as a car bomb attack in Jerusalem.

The judges said Barghouti's orders for terror attacks were sometimes "based on instructions" from Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

"Arafat would never give explicit instructions for attacks but he let it be known when the timing was right," the judges said.

"He made sure his subordinates understood very well when he was interested in a cease-fire and when he was interested in terror attacks against Israel," the verdict said.

Barghouti, 43, was charged with leading dozens of terror operations against Israeli targets since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising, including suicide and shooting attacks that led to the death and injury of hundreds of Israeli citizens and Israel Defense Force soldiers.

According to the charge sheet, Barghouti headed the Fatah, Tanzim and Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade terror groups in the West Bank and was subordinate to Arafat. Barghouti, who refused a lawyer, represented himself throughout his trial, which began in August 2003.

The state prosecutor said Barghouti funded and planned terror attacks and is not the political activist he claimed to be. Court security personnel were deployed in increased numbers Thursday morning. Barghouti's supporters in the European parliament were expected to show up for the ruling.

Seized by Israel in 2002, Barghouti denied orchestrating attacks against Israelis. He has expressed pride in resistance to Israeli occupation while declaring his opposition to what he called "the killing of innocents".

Supporters said if Barghouti was found guilty, it would bolster him even more among the Palestinian public, where he is second only in popularity to Arafat.