Today, Israel’s trial against Marwan Barghouti, elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, has been resumed at the Tel Aviv District Court. Israel accuses Barghouti, who has been the secretary general of the Fatah movement, of leading a “terrorist” organisation. He was detained on April 15 in Ramallah and has been imprisoned in various Israeli detention centers, often in solitary confinement. Barghouti and his defence lawyers believe that Israel’s court represents the occupation.
At today’s hearing, the Israeli prosecutor called on three Palestinian prisoners accused by Israel of acting under Barghouti’s command. They refused to answer questions and then stormed out of the courtroom. Barghouti has said he will respond the same way: exercise his silence. Barghouti and his lawyers have repeatedly said that they would not mount a legal defense to fight the charges against him. They do not recognise the legitimacy of Israel’s court. At the recommendation of the Supreme Court, the public defender’s office last week withdrew its petition to release itself from defending Barghouti. Last fall, the Tel Aviv District Court, following an announcement by Barghouti’s lawyers that they would not continue to defend him, instructed the public defender’s office to immediately appoint a lawyer for Barghouti. Barghouti indicated that he was not interested in the representation by a public defender and said that his legal advisors had instructed him to adopt a passive defense.
Last week the court ruled that Barghouti’s lawyer was still charged with upholding his rights and preventing a “miscarriage of justice”. The court ruled that Barghouti’s right to choose his own line of defense was not relevant, the accused was not attempting to carry out his own defense, but to undermine the trial by refusing to take legal representation.
Israel’s trial against Barghouti, which began last August, had been delayed after Barghouti refused legal representation, saying his advisers had told him to exercise his right to silence. He has called the trial “a sham and a lie”.
The three Palestinian witnesses called on Friday by the prosecution all questioned the legitimacy of the court. “This is not a court. The only court I am ready to recognise is an international court that will investigate the war crimes that your army perpetrates,” said Nasser Abu Humeid, one of the three witnesses. “This is part of the occupation. You murder women, old people and children. Palestine is ours, including Jerusalem, and you have no right to judge us,” Bilal Barghouti, a relative of the accused, and witness told the court.