(photo credit: AP)
Ahmed Sa'adat, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was indicted in a military court Sunday on 19 terrorism-related charges.
The charges against Sa'adat include overseeing the PFLP's terrorist operations, membership in an illegal organization, arms dealing and incitement.
Security forces arrested him in a raid on the Jericho prison on March 14, along with five other wanted Palestinians. Four of the suspects are PFLP members who were indicted on May 12 for the murder of tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi in Jerusalem's Hyatt Hotel on October 17, 2001. The PFLP had claimed responsibility for the killing.
Despite Israel consistently arguing that Sa'adat had been the mastermind behind the Ze'evi assassination, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz and State Attorney Eran Shendar recently concluded that there was insufficient evidence to charge Sa'adat with the crime.
The fifth prisoner taken in Jericho, alleged Karine A weapons ship paymaster Fuad Shubaki, is also being tried in a military court. The ship was en route to the Palestinian Authority when it was seized by Israeli naval commandos in the Red Sea in January 2002.
Until they were arrested by security forces in March, Sa'adat and the other suspects were being held in the PA's Jericho prison under the supervision of American and British wardens, in accordance with a deal reached in 2002. In an arrangement brokered by the United States that opened the way for Israel to lift a month-long siege of then-PA chairman Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah, the PA had taken the six men into custody.
The IDF-Jericho operation was launched after the new Hamas-led Palestinian government had said it would release the six men and the US and British supervisors had left, saying they were concerned for their own safety.