On 25 December 2008, two days before Israel unleashed its latest assault on the Gaza Strip, an Israeli court sentenced Ahmed Sa’adat, General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, to 30 years in prison.
Comrade Sa’adat has been sentenced on political charges to the longest possible prison term. The 19 charges are for heading an ‘illegal terrorist organisation’, ‘incitement to murder’ and various other related crimes. Such charges, passed by an occupying force that for the past 60 years has murdered, starved and intimidated the Palestinian people, are unjust, illegitimate and must be opposed.
The basis on which Comrade Sa’adat was originally arrested, that of involvement in the assassination of the then Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi in 2001, was dropped two years ago owing to lack of evidence.
Zeevi was killed in retaliation for the assassination of Ali Abu Mustafa, the General Secretary of the PFLP at the time. Responsibility for the killing was claimed by the PFLP, and four of its members have now been sentenced to lengthy prison terms totalling over 280 years. In contrast, Israel has not tried anyone for the murder of Comrade Mustafa, an act of state terror of the kind with which Israel and its imperialist masters are all too familiar.
Despite the Israeli Justice Ministry dropping the charge relating to Zeevi’s assassination, for the past two-and-a-half years Comrade Sa’adat has been dragged through a deliberately slow kangaroo court process. He has steadfastly declined to grant any legitimacy to the military courts of the occupation, refusing to cooperate with the judicial process at all stages.
In his statement before sentencing, Sa’adat reiterated: “I have already confirmed that I do not recognise the legitimacy of this court as it is an extension of the illegal occupation under international law … 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 [which Israel has built in the occupied West Bank to divide Palestinian land].”
Correctly stressing the ultimate futility of the occupation’s military court, he went on to describe the latter as “a mechanism for the suppression of our [Palestinian] 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”.
The legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people against Israeli occupation has not, and will not, be defeated. The bombs dropped on Gaza during the first weeks of 2009 have not resulted in an end to the resistance rockets fired into Israel against the occupation or any diminution in the standing of the elected Hamas government. Neither has sentencing the many thousands of Palestinians in Israeli cells stopped the struggle for Palestinian self-determination. Ending the occupation is the only way to end the resistance to occupation.
Comrade Sa’adat pointed out that “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”.
As a statement on the Free Ahmed Sa’adat website rightly says, the military court of the Israeli occupation “will learn … that it cannot kill the commitment of the people of Palestine – and of the world – to seek freedom, by imprisoning and assassinating their leaders”.
The imprisonment of Comrade Sa’adat must be opposed and the demand made for his immediate release. His sentence should be exposed as an act of intimidation and an attempt to suppress the Palestinian struggle.
Free Ahmed Sa’adat!
Free all Palestinian political prisoners!
Victory to the Palestinian resistance!