Marwan Barghouti, the detained leader of Fatah's Tanzim militia in the West Bank and a firebrand leader of the Palestinian uprising, was charged yesterday in Tel Aviv District Court with murder, incitement to murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, membership of a terrorist organization, acting as an accessory to murder, and activity in a terrorist organization.
The indictment branded Barghouti an "arch terrorist whose hands are bloodied by dozens of terror actions."
Two of Barghouti's deputies, Nasr Aweis and Nasr Abu Hamid, also jailed by Israel, are to serve as witnesses for the prosecution against their former chief, as are a number of other Palestinian activists currently in Israeli custody.
The prosecution claims that Barghouti, who was subordinate to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, served as the head of the following terrorist organizations: Fatah, the Tanzim and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in the West Bank.
Barghouti's lawyer said at the start of proceedings that he would present arguments pertaining to the court's lack of authority to charge his ward. The State of Israel, he added, had committed acts in violation of international treaties.
Before Judge Zvi Gurfinkel entered the court, Barghouti took the opportunity to comment to the awaiting press. He called himself a freedom fighter and said that as long as Israel chose the military option, there could be no peace. He raised his handcuffed hands, and said in Hebrew: "The intifada will be victorious."
Continuing in English, he said, "I am a peaceful man. I was trying to do everything for peace between the two peoples. I believe the best solution is two states for two peoples."
He added that Israel's "policy of occupation will not lead to security. Security will only be achieved in one way, by peace, and peace will only be achieved by an end to the occupation."
As the short hearing neared its end, Barghouti, 43, turned to the judge and said that he had his own charge sheet against the State of Israel. But Gurfinkel cut him short, saying that the court was not a political stage and that Barghouti could voice his comments at the end of the proceedings.
The charge sheet says that since the start of what Palestinians term the "Al-Aqsa Intifada" in September 2000, the defendant led intensive terror operations against Israeli targets. It links Barghouti to senior terrorists, including Nasr Aweis, Nasr Abu Hamid, Ahmed Barghouti, Ra'ad Karmi and others.
The terrorist acts to which Barghouti is allegedly tied include suicide bombings and fatal shooting attacks that cost hundreds of Israeli civilians and soldiers their lives and wounded hundreds more.
The charges against Barghouti include that when he was informed that Ibrahim Hassuna was on his way to carry out the attack on the Sea Food Market restaurant in Tel Aviv in March, Barghouti approved the attack, but asked that it be carried out in the West Bank rather than inside Israel. A short time after the attack, around 3 A.M., Ahmed Barghouti allegedly informed the defendant that the attack had been carried out. The defendant is then said to have asked Nasr Aweis to confer with him before issuing a leaflet claiming
responsibility for the attack.
In addition, the indictment alleges that Barghouti was involved in training terrorists by helping to finance training for members of terror organizations. He is said to have raised a sum of $20,000 from Yasser Arafat that Nassr Abu Hamid passed on to him to pay for and organize the training.
Barghouti is also accused of interviewing the Palestinians before they were accepted into the terrorist organization and passing on requests for funds from the terror groups to the PA chairman, who then, allegedly, decided which requests to accept.
The court upheld the prosecution's request to detain Barghouti until the end of the legal proceedings against him. The prosecution pointed out that its evidence was not based only on the testimony of senior Palestinians commanders who served under the defendant, but also on Barghouti's comments during his interrogation and additional documents seized from his office during Operation Defense Shield.
The trial is set to resume in about three weeks' time.