TEL AVIV, Israel – Raising his cuffed hands triumphantly, Marwan Barghouti, one of the most visible leaders of the Palestinian uprising, was led into an Israeli court Wednesday to stand trial on charges he orchestrated widespread terror attacks that killed scores of Israelis.
"The uprising will be victorious," Barghouti shouted in Hebrew to a packed courtroom before proceedings began. Barghouti, 43, wore a dark brown prison uniform and gestured excitedly as he held an impromptu news conference in three languages -- Hebrew, Arabic and English -- before being dragged away by guards.
In the first major court case against a Palestinian leader, Israel will try to show that senior Palestinian Authority officials were involved in violence against Israelis. Barghouti's lawyers said they want to use the trial draw the world's attention to Israel's actions as an occupying power.
Barghouti, leader of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement in the West Bank, said Wednesday he continued to support a peace deal with Israel.
"I am a peaceful man," he said. "I was trying to do everything for peace between the two peoples. I believe the best solution is two states for two peoples ... The policy of occupation will not lead to security. Security will only be achieved in one way, by peace, and peace will only be achieved by the end of the occupation."
In the days of peace-making in the 1990s, Barghouti developed friendships with some Israeli officials, helped persuade Fatah activists to recognize Israel and was a staunch proponent of co-existence.
However, after Israeli-Palestinian fighting erupted in September 2000, Barghouti adopted a more militant line, saying Palestinians had the right to drive Israelis out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by force.
In the early days of the uprising, Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian parliament, delivered fiery speeches during street protests. He maintains he is only a politician, but Israel says he was the key figure in organizing attacks by members of a Fatah-affiliated militia, the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade.
Barghouti, 43, was arrested April 15 during an Israeli military sweep in the West Bank.
In Tel Aviv District Court, Barghouti was charged Wednesday with murder, attempted murder and involvement in terrorist organizations.
The Justice Ministry said Barghouti was the "central partner in the decisions made by organizations that in the last two years carried out a series of attacks that claimed the lives of scores of Israeli citizens and wounded hundreds."
Israel Army Radio said two senior Al Aqsa militiamen -- Nasser Awais and Nasser Abu Hmeid -- were to appear as witnesses for the prosecution.
Jawad Boulos, one of several defense attorneys, said he would not call any witnesses. Barghouti does not recognize the jurisdiction of the Israeli court, Boulos said. "Marwan has prepared a list of charges against Israel and the Israeli occupation and ... we will try to convince the world that the one that has to be brought to trial is the occupation," Boulos said.
Moshe Negbi, an Israeli legal analyst, said the trial is an attempt by Israel to "convince the world that the Palestinian Authority is a terrorist authority."
But he said the trial "will also be a forum for Marwan Barghouti to focus world attention on the occupation, on the plight of the Palestinians, and we have still to see who will win this court of public opinion."
Barghouti is the second-most popular Palestinian leader, trailing only Arafat in recent polls.
As the Fatah leader in the West Bank, Barghouti was in regular contact with many young activists. Many Fatah members are also active in the Al Aqsa militia that has claimed responsibility for many bombings and shooting attacks against Israelis.
Israeli security officials have said Barghouti was gradually drawn into direct involvement in attacks, first defending them, then funneling money to militants, and finally orchestrating them.
After the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994, Israel stopped arresting and putting senior Palestinian figures on trial. The Palestinian Authority was largely permitted to handle law and order issues in areas under its control, an arrangement that held until the Palestinian uprising broke out.
In nearly 23 months of fighting, Israel has arrested several thousand Palestinians suspected of involvement in violence. Israel's army has also carried out dozens of killings of suspected militants.
Israeli officials have claimed that during questioning, Barghouti acknowledged orchestrating attacks. But Barghouti and his lawyers have denied this, saying he was interrogated incessantly after his arrest.
During the first three weeks, he was interrogated around the clock and allowed to sleep only two hours a night, said Khader Shkirat, another defense attorney. Shkirat said Barghouti slept while sitting on a chair, with his hands tied behind the chair.
Meanwhile, Israel's Supreme Court blocked an Israeli attempt to try out a new policy aimed at deterring homicide bombers. The court stopped the expulsion of three relatives of Palestinian militants from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip for 15 days, ordering a formal hearing.
Israeli officials say the threat of expelling relatives, along with destruction of family homes of homicide bombers, could deter the attackers. More than 250 bystanders have been killed in more than 70 homicide Palestinian bombing attacks during 22 months of violence.
Cabinet Minister Dan Naveh said there are already signs that the new policy is preventing attacks. "I am very sorry that the Supreme Court decided to grant an injunction for two weeks," he told Israel TV. "We are in a war, every day it's a war."