Palestinian on trial urges defiance

Israel rehearses operation exiling Arafat, report says

October 04, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

JERUSALEM - Marwan Barghouti, a rising Palestinian leader on trial in Israel on charges of terrorism, called yesterday on Palestinians throughout the West Bank to defy Israeli curfews, and an Israeli newspaper reported that the army has rehearsed an operation to snatch and deport Yasser Arafat.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has repeatedly sought to exile Arafat, whom he considers Israel's enemy, but most of Israel's top security officials have opposed the move, and the coalition government has blocked it.

Barghouti, the top West Bank official of Arafat's Fatah faction, appeared yesterday for a third hearing in advance of his trial on Israeli charges of planning attacks that left 26 Israelis dead and scores wounded. Barghouti has denied the charges and rejected Israel's authority to try him.

The trial is shaping up as a showdown between Israeli officials out to demonstrate links between mainstream Palestinian leaders and terrorism and one of the most articulate of those leaders, who is trying to put the Israeli occupation in the dock. Barghouti's lawyers distributed his 54-count indictment of Israel yesterday.

Yesterday's hearing, to evaluate a prosecution request to extend Barghouti's confinement, was once again marked by tumult inside and outside the Tel Aviv courtroom. Families of some Israeli victims scuffled outside with the police.

As Barghouti, in shackles and a brown prison uniform, was brought into the courtroom, he called out, "I say one thing: The intifada will be victorious over the occupation." He clasped his chained hands over his head and shook them, smiling.

He was drowned out by bereaved family members screaming, "They shouldn't give you the right to speak" and "They should castrate you."

As to the Israeli actions on Arafat, the Israeli newspaper Maarriv reported yesterday that the army has practiced an operation forcing Arafat into exile by taking him to a secret place by helicopter. The newspaper said the army has even scouted a destination, which it described as "an isolated location," and added that the plan "is ready for immediate operation with very short notice."

An army spokesman said he could not confirm or deny the report.

On becoming prime minister in March 2001, Sharon privately promised President Bush that he would not harm Arafat. That promise, in part, has blocked the option of forcing Arafat into exile because security officials have warned that an attempt to capture the Palestinian leader could injure or kill him.

Israel has repeatedly besieged Arafat in his headquarters this year, destroying most of his official compound in Ramallah, on the West Bank, and Bush has backed Sharon's demand that Arafat be replaced before negotiations resume. But Israel abandoned its latest siege this week after the Bush administration criticized it as hurting the chances of Palestinian democratic change as well as the American president's efforts to rally support for a possible war on Iraq.

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