Biographical Timeline


1953 – Born in al-Bira, to 1948 refugees from the destroyed village of Dayr Tarif (near al-Ramleh).

1967 – Became a student activist following the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in the PFLP-led Palestine Student Union.

1969 – Formally joined the PFLP, attracted by its combination of Marxism-Leninism (which he felt most suitable for the son of a refugee peasant family) with traditional pan-Arab nationalism.

Feb 1969 – First arrested by Israel for PFLP activities; received 3 months detention. Arrested again in 1970 (detained for 28 months), 1973 (detained for 10 months), 1975 (held for 45 days). Credits his early years in prison with giving him the opportunity to advance his understanding of Marxist theory and consolidating his commitment to the PFLP.

1975 – Graduated from the UNRWA Teachers Training College in Ramallah, specializing in Mathematics.

1976 – Rearrested by the Israelis and imprisoned for four years.

Apr 1981 – Elected to the Central Committee of the PFLP.

1989 – Arrested and held in administrative detention for 9 months.

1992 – Arrested and held in administrative detention for 13 months.

Mar 1993 – Elected to the Politburo of the PFLP while still in administrative detention, reportedly in recogition of his education and organizing activities with other detainees.

1993 – Released from administrative detention, but declared a “wanted person” liable to re-arrest, shortly after release.

1994 – Elected leader of the PFLP in the West Bank.

1995 – Arrested by the PA and briefly detained in a sweep of PFLP members, under Israeli pressure.

Mar 1996 – Briefly detained without charge again by the PA in a sweep of known activists.

Dec 1996 – Arrested by the PA in a roundup of PFLP members on the West Bank, following a PFLP attack on Israeli settlers in Beit-El/Surda on 11 December. Released without charge on 27 February 1997 after conducting a hunger strike, the PA fearing the consequences if he should die in jail. He collapsed hours after release, and spent several days comatose and on a respirator in Ramallah Hospital.

2000 – George Habash steps down as General Secretary of the PFLP, at the party’s Sixth National Conference. Replaced by Mustafa Zibri (Abu Ali Mustafa), a long-time PFLP leader based in Damascus.

27 Aug 2001 – Abu Ali Mustafa assassinated when an Israeli helicopter fired rockets at his office in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

3 Oct 2001 – Ahmad Sa’adat elected Secretary-General of the PFLP. Sa’adat declares at his inaugural press conference that the goals of the Palestinian people are “our right of return, and our independence, with Jerusalem as the capital” He also vows to avenge the assassination of Abu Ali Mustafa.

17 Oct 2001 – Four members of the PFLP assassinate the far-right Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi. (Zeevi is known as a supporter of the forced expulsion of Palestinians and as a proponent of “targetted assassinations”. His assassination is a popular move among militants, and reinvigorates support for the PFLP). Israel accuses Sa’adat of having ordered the assassination.

22 Oct 2001 – The PA condemns the killing of Zeevi as contrary to wider Palestinian interests as it gives Israel an excuse to take military action in the Occupied Territories. Jibril Rajoub, head of the West Bank Preventative Security Service, outlaws the military wing of the PFLP – the Martyr Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades – and issues an ultimatum to Ahmad Sa’adat to turn himself in or face arrest.

24 Oct 2001 – IOF attacks the West Bank village of Beit Rima, apparently in an unsuccessful attempt to capture Sa’adat, shooting dead nine Palestinians including 5 local policemen sleeping in an olive grove.

15 Jan 2002 – Sa’adat is arrested by Palestinian special forces after being lured to a meeting in a Ramallah hotel with PA Intelligence chief Tawfiq Tirawi. The PFLP condemns the PA for caving to U.S . and Israeli pressure, and putting its own survival ahead of the national consensus by arresting the head of a PLO faction. Its military wing warns that it will kill Arafat aides if Sa’adat is not released. PFLP supporters protest the arrest in the streets of Ramallah, Gaza City and Bethlehem.

2 Feb 2002 – The PFLP’s politburo announces that the movement will suspend its participation in the PLO Executive Committee until Sa’adat is released.

21 Feb 2002 – The PA’s General Intelligence Services capture in Nablus the cell of the Martyr Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades believed responsible for the assassination of Zeevi. They are held with Sa’adat at Arafat’s Ramallah compound.

Mar-Apr 2002 – Sa’adat besieged with Arafat in the Muqata by the IOF, beginning 29 March.

29 Apr 2002 – Under heavy U.S. pressure, Arafat accepts a deal to end the siege of his compound. The terms of the deal are not made public but it is apparent that Israel has agreed to lift the siege on Arafat in return for the PA agreeing to imprison under international supervision Ahmad Sa’adat, the four PFLP members accused of killing Zeevi (Basel al-Asmar, ‘Ahed Abu Ghalma, Majdi al-Rimawi and Hamdi Qar’an), and Fuad Shubaki – the PA official accused of organising the Karine A weapons shipment. The four PFLP members are cursorily tried by a military tribunal inside the Muqata, and sentenced to terms up to 18 years’ imprisonment for killing Zeevi. Arafat rules that Sa’adat is a political leader, not a military leader, and so his case must be decided by the Palestinian judiciary.

1 May 2002 – All six are transferred to Jericho Prison on the evening of 1 May, where they are nominally under the control of the P.A. but actually guarded by U.S. and British monitors. Arafat is widely criticised in the Occupied Territories for winning his own freedom at the expense of Sa’adat’s.

2 May 2002 – IDF withdraws from the Muqata.

3 Jun 2002 – The Palestinian High Court of Justice in Gaza rules that there is no evidence linking Sa’adat to the assassination of Zeevi, and no legal grounds for his continuing detention. It orders his immediate release from jail. Ra’anan Gissin, an Israeli government spokesperson, implies that if the PA releases Sa’adat, he will be assassinated, saying “if he is not brought to justice, we will bring justice to him…”

4 Jun 2002 – The Palestinian Cabinet declines to implement the High Court ruling, ostensibly because it fears that Sa’adat will be assassinated if released. (More realistically, it is probably because releasing Sa’adat will contravene the terms of the 29 Apr agreement that removed the Israelis from the Muqata).

13 Jun 2002 – Amnesty International calls for the PA to respect the finding of the High Court and release Sa’adat immediately, and for Israel to guarantee it will not take extrajudicial measures against him. Palestinian NGO’s call upon Arafat to uphold the rule of law. Sa’adat remains in jail.

20 Aug 2002 – Israeli Special Forces troops assassinate Sa’adat’s younger brother, Mohammed, a member of the PFLP, at his home near Ramallah.

26 Aug 2002 – Sa’adat begins a 72-hour hunger strike to protest his continued detention.

14 Jan 2003 – In a letter from prison, Sa’adat expresses his opposition to the Road Map, on the grounds that it is designed solely to provide security for Israel’s occupation and criminalize opposition to it as terrorism.

23 Jan 2003 – Sa’adat’s wife, Abla, is arrested by Israeli troops at the Allenby Bridge border crossing, and prevented from addressing the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where she was a scheduled speaker.

15 Mar 2005 – PA President Mahmoud Abbas suggests that Sa’adat will be released when the PA resumes security control of Jericho later that month. Other PA officials deny they have any such intention, and Sa’adat himself doubts whether the PA even has the power to release him.

23 Nov 2005 – The PFLP announces that Sa’adat will run in the PLC elections of Jan 2006, in the hope that this will raise awareness of his imprisonment and bring pressure to bear for his release.

14 Mar 2006 – Ahmad Sa’adat was arressted by the Israeli Occupation Forces from the Jericho Prison with hundreds of other political prisoners after the prison was attacked by the IOF.

25 Dec 2008 – Ahmad Sa’adat was sentenced to thirty years in prison by the illegitimate Zionist military court.

June 2009 – Ahmad Sa’adat goes on nine day hunger strike in protest of isolation and solitary confinement.

October 22, 2009 – Ahmad Sa’adat sentenced to an additional six months of isolation by Zionist military courts, after over 206 days of isolation.

September-October 2011 – Ahmad Sa’adat and hundreds of Palestinian prisoners participate in hunger strike demanding an end to isolation and solitary confinement

April 17, 2012 – Prisoners’ Day 2012, in which over 2500 Palestinian prisoners began an open ended hunger strike demanding an end to isolation, visits for Gaza prisoners, and an end to the “Shalit laws”

May 29, 2012 – Ahmad Sa’adat is finally released from solitary confinement and moved from Ramon prison to Shata prison and its general population