JERUSALEM – A Palestinian uprising leader on trial in Israel acknowledged during prison interrogations that he helped fund and orchestrate attacks on Israelis, the Justice Ministry said.
Marwan Barghouti, whose trial began Sunday, has vehemently denied involvement in violence. His lawyer, Khader Shkirat, said Tuesday the interrogation summaries were "not correct at all" and denied his client confessed.
Until his arrest a year ago, Barghouti headed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement in the West Bank and delivered fiery speeches urging Palestinians to drive Israel out of the West Bank and Gaza. Despite the rhetoric, he says he supports peace with Israel, including the creation of a Palestinian state alongside it.
According to the interrogation summaries, released Monday, Barghouti said he was a conduit between Arafat and Fatah's military wing, the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, which has carried out dozens of shootings and several bombings since the latest fighting between Israel and the Palestinians began 30 months ago.
Israel accuses Barghouti of playing a role in attacks that killed 26 Israelis. He has challenged the court's jurisdiction, saying it has no right to try him because he is a Palestinian legislator.
According to the ministry, Barghouti allegedly told his interrogators, "As part of my position as Fatah general secretary, I am responsible for supplying funds to cells, acquisition of weapons and carrying out attacks."
Barghouti also said he believed "armed resistance and attacks that hurt Israel would be the only way to advance toward peace," according to the ministry document. He argued that Israeli suffering would persuade the public to back down from rigid negotiating positions, the document said.
Barghouti said he transferred thousands of dollars in funds from Arafat to a militia leader in the West Bank city of Nablus to carry out attacks, the summary said. Barghouti said he did not inform Arafat of the specific purpose, but simply indicated who the money was for.
Shkirat said it was part of Barghouti's job as Fatah leader to request money from Arafat for Fatah members, but that did not mean he sponsored attacks.
Barghouti, 44, speaks fluent Hebrew he learned during the six years he spent in Israeli jails for his involvement in an armed Fatah squad in the 1980s. He was deported by Israel in 1988 but returned in 1994 after an interim peace deal was signed with Israel.
His captors noted that imprisonment and interrogation had not dampened his buoyant personality.
"It must be emphasized that the subject has a well-rounded sense of humor and told us some really great jokes," they wrote.