17 April 2011

Narratives Behind Locked Doors (3)

Abla Sa'adat: A husband imprisoned

In August 2001, Israeli forces assassinated Abu Ali Mustafa, the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). In retaliation, the PFLP killed the Israeli Minister of Tourism, Rehavam Ze'evi. Abla Sa'adat's husband, Ahmad Sa'adat, succeeded Abu Ali Mustafa as the Secretary-General of the PFLP. In 2002, during the Israeli invasion of Ramallah, Mr. Sa'adat and four of his colleagues were arrested by the Palestinian Authority and charged with organizing the assassination of the Israeli minister. For four years, Sa'adat was imprisoned in Jericho, with British and American wardens monitoring his incarceration in accordance with an agreement between the United States and Israel.

On 14 March 2006, Israeli troops surrounded the prison. In an effort to capture Sa'adat and his colleagues, they destroyed significant parts of the prison in a 12-hour siege involving 1,000 troops. Abla Sa'adat, Ahmad Sa'adat's wife, says of this incident: "The families of the detainees were waiting, worried that any minute the prison might explode and those trapped in it would be harmed, or that the building would be destroyed and the detainees inside would be hurt. It was a very difficult time for us." At the time, her daughters were in university, her oldest son was in Jordan for his education and the younger son was at school, but when the family members found out they were all shocked. They spoke with their father on the phone, but once mobile reception was lost, they became increasingly worried. Abla Sa'adat says the fear for her husband affected her in a very physical way, even for a year afterwards. "Nonetheless," she said, "I had to show strength towards my children, and my husband when I spoke with him in the Israeli jail."

Sa'adat and his fellow party members were brought to Al Jalameh detention center. During the investigation of the assassination of the Tourism Minister, Mr. Sa'adat, represented by PCHR before the Israeli High Court, "refused to cooperate with the Israeli court, considering it an entity of the occupation, which may be resisted." Sa'adat's wife says he was not involved in the assassination, but he and his four colleagues were all charged with being directly or indirectly involved. "The trial went on for two years, but Ahmad only spoke with his lawyer, not with the court, because he did not believe in the court." She says about the arbitrary length of prison sentences: "A young man from 'Shafa Amro', this is a city in 1948 lands, who studies at Birzeit University - he was sentenced to only 15 years for planning to blow himself up with Islamic Jihad. Ahmad Sa'adat on the other hand was sentenced to 30 years for no reason."

Sa'adat was moved between seven different prisons in Israel. The reason he was moved so frequently, says Abla Sa'adat "Is that the Israeli Prisons Administration have a policy that they do not keep a prisoner in one prison for more than six months per year, in order to achieve two goals; so that he cannot establish good relations with other prisoner, and also to create an instability in his psyche, and for his family too. He had prior experience inside Israeli prisons, but the psychological and physical pressure is humiliating, no matter how much experience one has."

From the beginning of his incarceration, Sa'adat was held in solitary confinement, in an isolated section of the prison – a real problem for someone used to being politically active and forming a new generation as a leader in prison. "To imagine how many things he missed because he was unable to communicate with the outside world: the people that deceased during his imprisonment, the children that have grown up that he didn't see growing up.His mother died while he was in prison. And a very close friend and comrade of his – Maha Nassar, who was also a political leader in the PFLP – died a year ago. When he found out he went through a state of shock. His health has deteriorated in prison, he has lost weight and now has high blood pressure." Sa'adat is not allowed to see lawyers or meet with Knesset members. He does not receive the letters sent to him from abroad – or those from his family. Sometimes he sends letters, but it takes around three months for them to arrive, says his wife.

"It says in the Israeli laws that daughters of prisoners are allowed to visit their parents twice per year, even if they do not have Jerusalem IDs – but Ahmad's daughters have not been allowed to see him for a year and a half because they are considered 'security threats' by the Israeli army. Ahmad cannot receive visitors or own books or clothes, and the only way of communication is through a lawyer. Even the lawyer is put through inspection and has to take off his clothes during the search."

Mrs. Sa'adat is saddened by the effects of her husband's imprisonment on her family."Ahmad was arrested when his sons and daughters were young children, and now, after 8 years, they have grown up without their father. It is really a very hard life and different from any other place in the world outside Palestine. But our only hope is ending the occupation and it is the source of our strength and faith in life."

Source: Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), 17 April 2011

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