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  Palestinians: More Executions Ahead

By Jamie Tarabay
Associated Press Writer
Sunday, Jan. 14, 2001; 2:19 p.m. EST

JERUSALEM –– After putting two men before firing squads and condemning two more, Palestinian authorities said Sunday that more trials – and harsher punishment – are ahead for Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel.

Israeli TV on Sunday showed one of the executions: the body of a bound, blindfolded collaborator twisting under a seconds-long fusillade from a nine-member police squad opening fire with Kalashnikov automatic rifles – the waiting crowd outside the execution site roaring in approval at the sound of the barrage.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak joined the criticism of Saturday's executions and trials, which Israeli newspapers featured Sunday in full-page color spreads complete with photos of the downcast condemned.

Barak, in a statement, called the trials "field court-martials."

"It is regrettable that the Palestinian Authority, which aspires to be a recognized entity, has recourse to show trials which recall dark periods of history," the Israeli leader added.

The executions in Nablus and Gaza City were only the fourth and fifth death penalties carried out in the more than six years of the Palestinian Authority – and a dramatic bid to stop cooperation in weeks of Israeli killings of Palestinian militiamen.

Alam Bani Odeh, 25, and Majdi Makawi, 28, admitted aiding Israel in a car bombing and a checkpoint shooting in November that killed a Palestinian bombmaker and a leader of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction.

Palestinians carried out Bani Odeh's execution before hundreds of onlookers in the West Bank town of Nablus, and opened the five-hour state security court trial of four more accused collaborators – making unmistakable the message to the Palestinian public.

Palestinian Attorney-General Khaled Qidreh defended the trials, saying, "We as the Palestinian Authority implement the law, and we gave them the opportunity to have legal representation and an open trial."

Lawmaker Farez Kadura, head of the Palestinian Authority committee on human rights, hedged on the question of whether the trials were fair:

"In different circumstances, in the future when we have a democratic country, they will receive all their legal rights in court, which will assure them a just trial," Kadura told Israel's Channel Two television.

"But in today's situation, when the Israeli government sends these people to assassinate or to kill people without a trial as has happened many times recently ... they of course can expect nothing else."

Qidreh denied an Israeli media report that 15 more accused collaborators were to face trial, but said, "We have many cases and in many of those the evidence will lead to a final conclusion. We are a state and we are very concerned about security and the stability of our people."

Hours after the executions, the four other men were convicted as accomplices in an Israeli rocket attack that killed a Palestinian militia commander. The Bethlehem court condemned two men – one only 18 – to death, and ordered life in prison with hard labor for the others.

The condemned men's only recourse now is Arafat, who must approve all executions.

Gideon Ezra, a member of Ariel Sharon's right-wing opposition Likud party, said Israel should immediately call off peace talks in protest of the executions.

In an interview with Channel Two, a Palestinian who described himself as a collaborator threw his pistol down on a table, saying he carries it out of fear for himself and his children.

"I think the Israeli public should see me – they should know who we are and support us and give us what we deserve," said the man, identified as Yunis Aviza.

Channel Two later showed footage of one of the executions, on a soccer field in Gaza City. It was not clear how they obtained the footage, although the segment showed a Palestinian Authority policeman with a video camera also filming the killing.

Palestinian Cabinet Minister Nabil Shaath endured criticism during a press conference with Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorbjoern Jagland while in Norway Saturday.

"We are against it, wherever it happens. It is not helpful, all the killings which we see on both sides," Jagland said.

Shaath defended the measure as a necessity of war.

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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