Ahmad Sa'adat: A Palestinian Prisoner of Conscience
4 July 2010
He’s the 1967-founded Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s (PFLP) General Secretary, one of thousands of Palestinian political prisoners, sentenced in 2002 to 30 years in prison “for a range of ‘security-related’ political offenses,’ ” including his prominence in a prohibited organization, a 1993 document stating that:
“The strategic aim of the PFLP’s struggle alongside the other forces of the Palestinian revolution is to liberate Palestine from Zionist colonial occupation. The PFLP aims for the establishment of a democratic state on the entire Palestinian land, with its capital in Jerusalem. This state would guarantee legal rights and equality of opportunity to all citizens, without discrimination on the grounds of religion, sex, belief or color. It would oppose Zionism and imperialism and be oriented towards democratic unity with other Arab countries.”
“Achieving this aim presupposes a radical solution for the Palestinian national cause and readiness to wage a prolonged, complicated and difficult struggle (against Zionism), a racist, aggressive, expansionist, settler-colonial entity which aims at elimination of our people.” Great sacrifices are needed to prevent it.
Born in 1953 in Deir Tarif village near Ramallah in the West Bank, the son of dispossessed refugees, he became activist after the 1967 Six Day War. In 2001, he was elected PFLP General Secretary, replacing Abu Ali Mustafa, assassinated by Israel on August 27 that year.
In February 1969, Israel first arrested him for PFLP activities, detaining for three months – then for 28 months in 1970, 10 months in 1973, and 45 days in 1975. That year, he graduated from UNWRA’s Ramallah Teaching Training College, specializing in math. In 1976, he was arrested again and held four years. In April 1981, he was elected to PLFP’s Central Committee. In 1989, he was arrested and detained nine months, again in 1992 for 13 months, then released but declared a “wanted person,” subject to re-arrest without cause.
In 1994, he became the PFLP’s West Bank leader, arrested again in 1995, briefly detained by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1996, then arrested by the PA with other PFLP members. On February 27, 1997, following a hunger strike, he was released without charge, authorities fearing he might die in prison. In fact, he collapsed, became comatose and needed emergency treatment in Ramallah Hospital.
Arrested again in 2002, the PA held him at Jericho Prison for over four years. On August 20, 2002, Israeli forces assassinated his brother, Mohammed. On January 25, 2006, he was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council on the Abu Ali Mustafa slate. On March 14, 2006, the IDF stormed the prison, abducting Sa’adat and five others, incarcerating them in Israeli military prisons.
He committed no crime, was given a military trial by three military judges, with no legal training, in a military court, charged with organizing the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister, Rehavam Zeevi on October 17, 2001, and was convicted by “an illegitimate manifestation of an illegitimate system….”
In June 2002, Amnesty International called for his immediate release after a Palestinian court ordered it, Fatah’s cabinet overriding the decision the same day, abiding by a US-brokered deal ending Israel’s 34-day siege on PA Chairman Yasser Arafet’s Ramallah headquarters on May 1.
After Israel abducted him, a Sa’adat wrote:
“The Quartet (US, EU, Russia and the UN) provide a cover for occupation. What happened at Jericho Prison has made the British and US governments an integral part of the conflict and forever buried any illusions (of) their neutrality” – referring to American and UK guards abandoning their posts, letting Israeli forces storm the prison, abduct Sa’adat and others, kill two detainees, and injure 23 more.
On December 25, 2008, he was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment, Israel’s harshest political punishment, illegal under international law. According to a PFLP statement, he was “sentenced to 30 years in Israeli jails for political reasons and not for any other crime,” Sa’adat refusing to recognize the court’s legitimacy, calling himself “a prisoner for freedom.”
His alleged crimes included a laundry list of “security offenses,” among them belonging to a forbidden organization, holding a post in it, and “incitement” in a speech condemning Israel’s assassination of the man he succeeded, Abu Ali Mustafa.
On March 18, 2009, he was transferred from Hadarim to Asqelan Prison solitary confinement, a punishment repeatedly used against him. In June, he went on hunger strike for nine days in protest. On August 10, he was moved to Ramon Prison isolation in the Naqab desert. He’s been denied family visits, outside communication, books, newspapers, magazines, television, and cigarettes, and has been systematically harassed and abused, including painful shackling and handcuffing outside his cell.
In October, a Bir Saba military court gave him six additional isolation months, what Sa’adat calls a “living death.”
Palestinian political prisoners include men, women and children against Israel’s illegal occupation, held not for crimes, but for “organiz(ing), act(ing), or f(ighting) for the freedom of their land.”
They’re now “a highly organized group, operating prisoners’ associations, political organizations within the prisons and representative committees, and engaging in protests and hunger strikes that have drawn the attention of the world to their cause.”
They’re honored for having sacrificed to liberate their people and land, enduring extreme hardships including torture, other abuses and humiliations, long imprisonments, solitary confinement, and, for some, death, assassinated for devotion to their cause.
“The imprisonment of Palestinian political prisoners – some of the strongest organizers, activists and leaders of Palestinian society – is a deeply felt wound in the Palestinian community. The freedom of these prisoners, imprisoned because of their desire to see their homeland free, is a necessary part of achieving justice for the Palestinian people.”
Sa’adat’s wife, Abla, also a political activist, faced Israeli harshness numerous times, including her January 23, 2003 Allenby Bridge border crossing arrest, preventing her from addressing the Porto Alegre, Brazil World Social Forum.
On June 22, 2010, the Bir Saba District Court for Administrative Affairs again denied Sa’adat family visits and affirmed other hardships, claiming “secret evidence” for justification.
Also on June 22, he sent a message to supporters at the June 22 – 26 US Social Forum, this year in Detroit, saying:
“I greet you from inside the walls of the prisons of the occupation, with the voices of thousands of Palestinian and Arab political prisoners. On behalf of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement, the Palestinian national movement, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, I carry our salutes to the US Social Forum, this coming together of movements of oppressed peoples to organize and stand together against racism, colonialism, oppression and imperialism.”
Sa’adat explained that Palestine’s struggle is theirs also, united for “liberation, international racial and economic justice, and an end to occupation, colonialism and imperialism….Our struggle is your struggle, and (your’s) is ours.”
He highlighted US complicity in Israel’s crimes, collaborating Arab regimes, and lamented the fallout – thousands of political prisoners, millions of refugees denied the right of return, ethnic cleansing, home demolitions, occupation, targeted killings, mass arrests and imprisonments, apartheid, and entrenched racism, ongoing against Palestinians for over 62 years.
He commended the courageous Flotilla activists and others to follow, those killed martyrs “who will inspire us all to struggle in their path of courage, strength, indomitable solidarity and commitment to justice in the face of brutal oppression.”
He concluded calling for “a global left front – for socialism, equality, justice and liberation! We join in your call: Another World is Possible! Another US is Necessary!”
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site atsjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.