On 25 December 2008, Palestinian leftist leader Ahmad Sa’adat was sentenced to 30 years in prison by an illegitimate Israeli occupation military court, for his role as General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. On the 13th anniversary of this shameful sentencing, we reiterate our commitment to struggle for the liberation of Ahmad Sa’adat and his fellow Palestinian prisoners. We call upon all supporters of Palestine to join us from 15 to 22 January 2022 for the International Week of Action to free Ahmad Sa’adat, and we invite you to endorse the week! Click here to send your endorsement for the week of action.
Supporting Ahmad Sa’adat is supporting the resistance
From the prisons of the Israeli occupation, Ahmad Sa’adat continues to play a major role as a leader of the Palestinian resistance. Alongside his 5,000 fellow Palestinian political prisoners, he organizes collective hunger strikes, declarations of solidarity, and stands firm with resolute commitment to the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea Moreover, he regularly expresses his solidarity with the struggles of peoples around the world, from the Black liberation movement to global struggles confronting imperialism, as well as the campaign to free Georges Abdallah, who Sa’adat views as “the general of the prisoners of the PFLP.”
Supporting Sa’adat’s release is part of confronting the role of the imperialist powers in his imprisonment and in the Zionist colonization of Palestine. It also means confronting the complicity of the Palestinian Authority and its “security coordination” in the oppression of the Palestinian people and in the criminalization of Palestinian resistance, a situation that has reached crisis-level proportions in 2021 with multiple attacks on celebrations for released prisoners and political arrests of Palestinian students and activists.
More than ever, we must build the international campaign to free Ahmad Sa’adat and all Palestinian prisoners! Do not hesitate to contact us if you wish to join the international week of action for the release of Ahmad Sa’adat from January 15 to 22, 2022.
Background on the case of Ahmad Sa’adat, Palestinian resistance fighter and leftist leader
(Adapted from the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat)
Ahmad Sa’adat is the imprisoned General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. One of nearly 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners, he has been sentenced to thirty years in Israeli prisons for a range of “security-related” political offenses. These charges include membership in a prohibited organization (the PFLP, of which Sa’adat is General Secretary), holding a post in a prohibited organization, and incitement, for a speech Sa’adat made following the Israeli assassination of his predecessor, Abu Ali Mustafa, in August 2001.
Sa’adat has been targeted for imprisonment because of his political activity and in his capacity as a Palestinian leader. The systematic assassination, imprisonment and detention of Palestinian political leaders has long been a policy of the Israeli state, as reflected in the imprisonment of Sa’adat and the nearly 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners, targeted for their involvement in and commitment to the struggle for the liberation of their land and people.
Born in 1953, Ahmad Sa’adat is the child of refugees expelled in 1948 from their home in the destroyed village of Deir Tarif (near al-Ramleh) and is himself a Palestinian refugee denied his right to return. He has been involved in the Palestinian national liberation movement since 1967, when he became active in the student movement and then officially joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1969. He was arrested by the Israeli occupation on numerous occasions, notably in 1970, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1989 and 1992 for a total of 10 years of detention.
In 1993, he was elected to the Political Bureau of the PFLP and became responsible for the West Bank sector in 1994. In this context, he was arrested several times between 1994 and 1996 by the Palestinian Authority as part of security coordination with the Israeli occupation established following the Oslo accords of 1993.
In 2000, George Habash resigned from his post as General Secretary of the PFLP and was replaced by Abu Ali Mustafa . He was assassinated by the Israeli occupation on 27 August 2001 by a U.S.-made missile fired into his office in central Ramallah. On 3 October 2001, Ahmad Sa’adat was elected General Secretary of the PFLP . On this occasion, he declared during his inaugural press conference that the objectives of the Palestinian people are “our right of return and our independence, with Jerusalem as our capital” and he also swore to avenge the assassination of Abu Ali Mustafa.
On 17 October 2001, four members of the PFLP executed the far-right Israeli Minister of Tourism Rehavam Zeevi . He is known as a supporter of the forced displacement/”transfer” of Palestinians and as a supporter of “targeted assassinations”. This operation sparked a wave of popular mobilization in Palestine and revived support for the PFLP. Israel accused Sa’adat of ordering the assassination.
On 22 October 2001, the Palestinian Authority — actively engaged in security coordination with the Israeli occupation — condemned Zeevi ‘s murder as contrary to Palestinian interests on the pretext that it gave Israel an excuse to undertake military action in the occupied territories. Jibril Rajoub, head of the West Bank Preventive Security Service, banned the military wing of the PFLP – the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades – and issues an ultimatum to Ahmad Sa’adat to surrender or face arrest .
On January 15, 2002, Sa’adat attended a meeting with PA security chief Tawfiq Tirawi under false pretenses, from which he was abducted and taken to the Muqata’a compound in Ramallah, then-Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s headquarters. In a deal involving Israel, Britain and the U.S., Sa’adat was then held in a Palestinian Authority prison in Jericho for over four years under the oversight of U.S. and British guards along with Ahed Abu Ghoulmeh, Majdi Rimawi, Hamdi Qur’an, Basil al-Asmar and Fouad Shobaki.
On 3 June 2002, the Palestinian High Court of Justice in Gaza ruled that there was no evidence linking Sa’adat to Zeevi’s assassination, and no legal grounds for his continued detention. He orders his immediate release from prison. Nevertheless, he remained imprisoned in the PA’s Jericho prison, with U.S. and British guards overseeing his and his comrades’ incarceration.
The director of the US/British “supervision” of the prisoners at Jericho Prison formerly ran the infamous Maze Detention Center for Britain in the occupied North of Ireland, where Irish republican prisoners were held. Canadian and Turkish guards also served here to imprison these Palestinian resisters.
Sa’adat and his fellow prisoners were not subject to any real Palestinian sovereignty, but rather to the conditions and demands of the United States and Great Britain, in which the PA was fully complicit. Sa’adat and his comrades were held under difficult conditions in Jericho prison, often secluded from one another and not allowed to communicate, denied access to newspapers, books, recreation and family and other visits. Water and electricity in their cells have been turned off, and numerous other punitive measures were implemented against them by the British and U.S. guards “monitoring” the prison. In response, Sa’adat and his comrades engaged in two hunger strikes, demanding an end to inhumane treatment and their immediate release.
In January 2006, he was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council on the Abu Ali Mustafa slate. On 14 March 2006, days before the newly elected Hamas majority government of the PA was due to assume office, the Israeli military stormed that prison at Jericho, killing two Palestinian guards, abducting Sa’adat and five fellow prisoners and taking them to Israeli military prisons. For the entire period of Sa’adat’s imprisonment in the PA jails, he had been convicted of no crime; his sentencing- in an illegitimate military court of occupation, on 25 December 2008 – came nearly seven years into his detention, after a trial that began after five years of PA/US/British, then Israeli, imprisonment.
This trial was, of course, a military trial, as are the trials of nearly all Palestinian political prisoners. These trials are based on military law, including military regulations that may be issued at any time by the Israeli military commander over the area. This military rule under occupation dates from the era of the British occupation of Palestine, in which these “emergency” military rules were adopted in order to suppress the Palestinian national movement for independence and self-determination. These military laws continue today for the same purpose – to continue a military occupation and suppress the indigenous people of Palestine’s struggle for liberation and self-determination. Such military trials generally fail to uphold international standards for fair trials. At a more basic level, they are an illegitimate manifestation of an illegitimate system – trials that, by their very nature, can never be fair or legitimate.
Sa’adat is the child of 1948 refugees who, with six million others in Palestine, in the camps outside Palestine and in exile around the world, are denied their right to return to their homes, lands and properties and denied their right to organize, struggle and act to obtain their freedom, their return and their liberation.
JERICHO ASSAULT AND ABDUCTION
On 14 March 2006, the Israeli army laid siege for twelve hours to the Palestinian Authority prison at Jericho holding six political prisoners. Israeli bulldozers and tanks attacked the prison while the Israeli military issued threats of assassination against the prisoners. This military assault caused the death of two Palestinians, the injury of twenty-three more, and the abduction of Ahmad Sa’adat and five other political prisoners from Jericho to Zionist prisons.
For over four years, these men had been held in the Palestinian Authority prison at Jericho, under U.S. and British guard. Immediately prior to the Israeli assault on the prison, these U.S. and British guards abandoned their posts, clearing the way for the military attack. The U.S. State Department blamed Palestinians for the siege, stating that the democratically-elected Palestinian Legislative Council leadership had indicated its willingness to release these illegally-held political prisoners. Said Sa’adat in a letter to the Palestinian people after his abduction, “The Quartet [US, EU, Russia and UN] provide a cover for occupation. What happened in Jericho Prison has made the British and US governments an integral part of the conflict and forever buried any illusions in their neutrality.”
Since his abduction – a blatant violation of Palestinian sovereignty – Sa’adat’s trial was repeatedly postponed and delayed. Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz admitted shortly following the abduction that there was insufficient evidence to indict Sa’adat in the assassination of extreme racist Israeli minister Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001, an act of retaliation for the August 2001 Israeli murder of PFLP General Secretary Abu Ali Mustafa. Instead, Sa’adat was indicted on a wide array of political charges in a hearing on March 28, 2006 at Ofer Military Base in Ramallah.
Sa’adat consistently and repeatedly refused to recognize the legitimacy of the illegitimate court; his lawyers petitioned for the charges to be dropped, as they are clearly politically motivated and the court itself is illegitimate. His trial was repeatedly postponed, from May 2006, to September 2006, to January 2007, to May 2007, and finally to July/August 2008. With each hearing, Sa’adat’s courageous refusal to recognize in any way the illegitimate court – refusing to stand for the military judges, issuing statements exposing this mockery of justice, and refusing to deal with the military courts or interrogators – stood in clear contrast to the system of occupation and oppression represented by the military courts, exposing its bankruptcy and illegitimacy.
On 25 December 2008, Sa’adat was sentenced to 30 years in the Israeli occupation prisons. His lengthy sentence, produced by an Israeli military court, was intended as a mechanism for imprisoning the resistance and the commitment of the Palestinian people to seek freedom, justice, liberation and self-determination. This is the highest sentence delivered in the occupation courts for a political charge.
Since that time, he has continued his leadership of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement behind bars. He was held in isolation for nearly three years, and was repeatedly denied family visits. Several major Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strikes, including the September-October 2011 hunger strike and the April-May 2012 hunger strike, placed an end to isolation as a central demand, including an end to the isolation of Sa’adat. Sa’adat was finally released from isolation and returned to the general prison population in late May 2012, following the agreement to end the prisoners’ hunger strike. During the strike, Sa’adat was hospitalized due to the severe physical stress of consuming only salt and water.
He has participated in multiple hunger strikes and collective protests, including the 2015 hunger strike against administrative detention, the 2017 Dignity Strike, the 2016 strike in solidarity with Bilal Kayed, and the 2019 hunger strike.
Sa’adat’s statement before sentencing (25 December 2008)
To start, I do not stand to defend myself in front of your court. I have already confirmed that I do not recognize the legitimacy of this court as it is an extension of the illegal occupation under international law, and as well as the legitimacy of our people’s right to resist occupation, and that this court is based on the British emergency laws of 1945 about which one of one of the leaders of the Zionist Labor Party said after their approval, It is one of the worst of the Nazi laws. He added, “It is true that the Nazi crimes committed did not reach the degree of crime of this legislation.”
So I stand to defend my people and their legitimate right to national independence and self-determination and return. These rights are guaranteed by international law and humanitarian law and the resolutions of the United Nations, as well as the most recent recommendations of the Hague Tribunal on the wall.
I defend the right of our people to peace and stability not only in this region, but also in the whole world. Security and stability can never be achieved in Palestine or in the region and the world as long as there is a policy based on the logic of the occupation and imposition of things on people, whether by force through military invasion or occupation, as in Palestine.
I stand before this court again today, as a mechanism for the suppression of our people and a tool of oppression, that is unable to end the resistance and is an example of the inability of the occupation and its policies imposed on the peoples to do so. If you review the files of the prisoners of the Zionist occupation of Palestine, you will find that many of the prisoners are held a second time or a third time, because this mechanism has failed to deter our people or our activists fighting for our rights.
This, like many other examples of the failure of the occupation and its tools to suppress of our people and abolish our resistance, and these courts, will remain as long as the occupation exists and will also remain in the resistance of our people.
The existing policy of the occupation and the logic of imposing by force will not bring security to Israel or other countries engaged in occupation. The main route to achieve security, stability and peace in the region is to end the occupation and the implementation of the resolutions of international legitimacy for the Palestinian cause, to provide a climate in which a democratic, peaceful and humane solution to the Palestinian crisis and the Arab-Zionist conflict is established from the roots is the only way to end violence and bloodshed.
Finally, I have already stressed in my previous statements from the so-called indictment, to the trial that has been formulated, and now reiterate the same position after your court concluded, that this is one-sided and farcical way to achieve its resolution under a mere image of a “court.” The convictions were known in advance, and pre-determined by the terms of the political and security mechanism, which is made “legitimate” by the court.
The essence of my position is that I am proud of the Palestinian people and their political and national resistance and their just struggle to achieve their national rights and also I am proud of the trust given me by the Central Committee of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, by electing me as Secretary-General, and I’m sorry that I have not yet been able to fully perform my duties, first: because of the detention of the Palestinian Authority and the loss of my freedoms to work for more than four years, and second because of this abduction, in which more than one party – the U.S., Britain and the Palestinian Authority – were complicit; and notwithstanding anything that could hamper you or force you, you cannot stop the struggle, along with my people, in whatever space of movement.
Long live the struggle of the Palestinian people!
December 25, 2008
Statements and Writings by Ahmad Sa’adat
Ahmad Sa’adat: Prisons, the Black Liberation Movement, and the Struggle for Palestine (Jadaliyya, 24 January 2019)
Letter from Ahmad Sa’adat to Georges Abdallah: “You remain a symbol and a model for us” (Samidoun, 4 September 2017)
- Ahmad Sa’adat issues statement to Resistance Festival in Greece (4 October 2017)
- International Workers Day: On May 1, Ahmad Sa’adat’s message from prison to the international left. (Free Ahmad Sa’adat, 30 April 2017)
- Interview with Ahmad Sa’adat: Prisoners’ struggle is critically important for the Palestinian liberation movement (Free Ahmad Sa’adat, 19 April 2017)
- Call to action from Ahmad Sa’adat: Boycott Israel! (Samidoun, 29 July 2015)
- Palestinian leader Ahmad Sa’adat from prison: We are struggling for democracy, liberation and justice for all (Samidoun, 11 December 2015)
- Interview with Ahmad Sa’adat: Leading from Prison, Ending Negotiations, and Rebuilding the Resistance (Journal of Palestine Studies, Summer 2014)
- Ahmad Sa’adat’s message to the Landless Workers’ Movement congress: Full Text (Free Ahmad Sa’adat, 13 February 2014)
- Ahmad Sa’adat’s Message to the World Social Forum – Free Palestine (Free Ahmad Sa’adat, 29 November 2012)
- Sa’adat from Isolation: Security Cooperation and PA Political Detention Must End (Free Ahmad Sa’adat, 29 January 2012)
- Ahmad Sa’adat greets Conference in Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners in Morocco (Free Ahmad Sa’adat, 25 January 2011)
- Ahmad Sa’adat Greets the US Social Forum (Free Ahmad Sa’adat, 18 June 2010)
- Ahmad Sa’adat speaks from isolation in Asqelan: The so-called “Two state solution” is a threat to the Palestinian people and the right to return (Free Ahmad Sa’adat, 1 June 2009)
- Ahmad Sa’adat statement before sentencing (Free Ahmad Sa’adat, 25 December 2008)
- Ahmad Sa’adat’s statement to Ofer military court (Free Ahmad Sa’adat, 14 January 2007)
- Interview with Ahmad Sa’adat in his Jericho prison cell (Solidaire, 15 June 2006)
- Interview with Ahmad Sa’adat (Mireille Terrin, Chris den Hond, 5 January 2005)
- Creating a Pole of the Democratic Left: Interview with Ahmad Sa’adat (Mireille Court, Chris den Hond, August 2004)
- The Popular Palestinian Intifada – Where is it heading? (Free Ahmad Sa’adat, 28 September 2003)
- Interview With Imprisoned PFLP General Secretary Ahmad Saadat (Fight Back News, 1 June 2003)
Resources and Articles on Ahmad Sa’adat
- Video: Steadfastness and Resistance – the Palestinian prisoners’ movement and the case of Ahmad Sa’adat (Samidoun 17 January 2021)
Video: Vancouver event urges freedom for Ahmad Sa’adat, justice for Palestine, with Khaled Barakat (Samidoun, 31 January 2020)
Ahmad Sa’adat: An exceptional revolutionary leader in challenging times by Khaled Barakat (Samidoun, 20 January 2019)
Ahmad Sa’adat: Palestine will be freed by the people, not the elites (Samidoun, 11 December 2018)
9 Years Later: My Journey to see my Father; 45 Minutes, a Window and a Telephone by Sumoud Sa’adat (Samidoun, 25 August 2015)