Barghouti calls accusations bogus
By Neil Bar-Or
TEL AVIV: A prominent Palestinian leader refused to present a closing argument Sunday at his trial on 26 murder counts, calling the accusations of involvement in terror attacks bogus.
Israel has charged Marwan Barghouti, one of the Palestinians’ most popular figures, for his alleged role in attacks against Israelis. Until his arrest 16 months ago, he was the leader of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement in the West Bank.
When one of the three judges asked Barghouti if he planned to present a closing argument, he said: “I want to say what I have to say, but not today.” He then turned to his court-appointed lawyer and told him, “You don’t represent me. You speak for this place they call a courthouse.”
A judge agreed to allow Barghouti to return on Sept. 29 for a closing statement. The Palestinian legislator refuses to conduct a formal defense because he does not recognize the Israeli court’s right to try him.
Prosecutor Devorah Chen accused Barghouti of turning the courtroom into a “playground” and said he was involved in “the entire constellation of terror activity.” Before a packed courtroom, the accused stroked his thick beard while listening, smiled and joked with guards.
The prosecutor said Barghouti planned terror attacks and dispatched those who carried them out. She said he was a leader not only of Arafat’s Fatah movement, but also of the violent offshoot, the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. Interrupting her, Barghouti said: “What is Al Aqsa? What am I the head of? These are all lies.”
He said his job was to represent Fatah. “I’m no criminal. I work for independence and for peace for the Palestinians,” he said. The prosecutor accused him of trying to make it a “political show” of the trial.
Barghouti was arrested by Israeli troops near the West Bank town of Ramallah in April 2002. While in jail he helped negotiate a unilateral truce called by the main militant groups on June 29, temporarily easing attacks against Israelis. —AP