Palestinian Leader Sentenced To 30-Year Jail Term

Ahmed Saadat, the secretary-general of the leftist Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was sentenced by an Israeli military court Thursday to 30 years in prison for heading a "terrorist organization," media reports said.

The sentencing came as Israel threatened to invade Gaza to stop rocket attacks on its settlements, rejecting a plea from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to show restraint and appealing directly to the Gazans to stop the barrages.

An Israeli army statement said Saadat, who is also a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was indicted on 19 "terrorism-related charges," including overseeing the PFLP's military operations, membership in an illegal organization, arms-dealing and incitement.

When Israeli forces seized Saadat in March 2006 in a controversial raid on a Jericho prison, he stood accused of planning the 2001 murder of far-right Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi, which was carried out by four PFLP militants.

Prosecutors later did not press the murder charge against Saadat, instead pressing the charges against the four PFLP gunmen, who were seized along with him in Jericho.

PFLP member Khalida Jarar slammed the verdict as politically- motivated, saying soon after his arrest, the Israelis accused Saadat of having killed Zeevi, but this accusation did not appear in the sentencing, which proves that his arrest was political and was not related to security issues.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in a statement released in Ramallah denounced the verdict as "unjust and without legal foundation," while pledging to continue unceasingly to demand his release and the release of all "our heroes" still held in Israeli prisons.

Meanwhile in Gaza, the ruling Islamic militant Hamas issued a statement saying that Saadat would be "among the first names on the list we demand" for release in exchange for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit captured in 2006.

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