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Fatah's Barghouti in rare court appearance

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Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti testified as part of a US civil lawsuit against the Palestinian leadership [AFP]The Middle East conflict will only end when Israel withdraws to the pre-1967 lines and a Palestinian state is established, jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti has said in a rare court appearance.

"The conflict will be finished the moment the Israeli occupation ends, and there is a full withdrawal to the 1967 borders and a Palestinian state is established," he said in Hebrew at Jerusalem Magistrates Court.

Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences for his involvement in several deadly anti-Israeli attacks, was called to testify as part of a US civil lawsuit against the Palestinian leadership in connection with bloodshed during the second intifada, which took place from 2000 to 2005.

On entering the courtroom, Barghouti, a senior official within the ruling Fatah party of Mahmud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, immediately raised his hands to flash his trademark victory V-sign.

"I call on the great Palestinian people to embrace unity and cohesion and to establish a national unity government and also to embrace popular, peaceful resistance to end the occupation," he said in Arabic.

Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah last year pledged to work quickly towards elections and to form a unity government under the terms of a reconciliation deal which has yet to be implemented.

'Continue struggle'

"Peace cannot happen without ending the occupation," he said, adding a "salute" to those behind the popular revolutions in Tunisia and Libya, as well as in Egypt, which on Wednesday marked the first anniversary since its uprising began.

"I don't recognise this court," Barghouti shouted as he was led out of the courthouse. "I call on the Palestinian people to continue their popular struggle."

Before Barghouti entered the room, his lawyer Elias Sabbagh had told the court he would not be testifying.

"We are talking about a US lawsuit against the Palestinian Authority and not against Mr Barghouti. Mr Barghouti is not part of this lawsuit, that is why he is not going to say anything about this case or any other case," he said.

"The case is against the PLO and the Palestinian Authority," Sabbagh told the AFP news agency, referring to the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

"They brought Barghuti as a witness because he was in the PA and he refused to say anything in the court about this issue."

An influential leader with widespread support among the Palestinian public, Barghouti is known for being a lifelong activist who supported the Oslo peace process in the 1990s.

But Israel has accused him of masterminding the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising.


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