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Israeli court sends Palestinian to prison for life

JERUSALEM — JERUSALEM -- Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian politician who helped lead a West Bank uprising, was sentenced yesterday to five consecutive life terms plus 40 years by an Israeli court that meted out the stiffest punishment for his role in the killings of a Greek monk in 2001 and four Israelis in 2002.

Appearing in a Tel Aviv court, Barghouti said he was found guilty before the trial began and admonished the three-judge panel.

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"You are like the pilots who drop the bombs on the Palestinian cities," said Barghouti, 45. "You are just the same."

Besides the life sentences, Barghouti received two consecutive 20-year terms for involvement in a failed car bombing and membership in a terrorist organization.

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The ruling, which follows a conviction last month, said Barghouti was "involved up to his neck in terror activity."

He is the first Palestinian political leader to be tried in an Israeli civilian court.

Barghouti, a former elected representative to the Palestinian legislature and the head of the Fatah movement, also commanded the militant Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Israeli military said. At the height of the uprising, he led rock-throwing youths from his stronghold in Ramallah. He was arrested in 2002.

For years the small, energetic Barghouti was a close ally of Israeli peace activists, advocating creation of a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel. However, with the outbreak of violence in September 2000, Barghouti became a strident backer of resistance against Israeli occupation.

Though he defended attacks against Jewish settlers and soldiers in the West Bank, he insisted that he did not actively encourage violence.

In their ruling yesterday, the three judges scoffed at Barghouti's claim to be a man of peace. Barghouti's "path to peace follows the bloody route of terrorism," they wrote.

When Barghouti entered the court, he waved his shackled hands and quickly spoke.

"I don't care if I am sentenced to one life imprisonment or 10 or 50 -- I do care about ending the occupation, and this will happen."

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The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.


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