Ahmed Saadat
Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters
Jericho prison day after IDF raid
Photo: Reuters

Terror chief denies ordering Zeevi murder

PFLP chief Ahmed Saadat, seized by Israeli security forces during Jericho operation last Tuesday, says he ‘rejects the accusations’ that he masterminded assassination of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi in 2001

The Palestinian terror leader seized by Israel in a raid on a West Bank jail denied any responsibility for his group’s 2001 assassination of Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi, his lawyer said on Thursday.


“I reject the accusations,” Ahmed Saadat was quoted as saying by his attorney, who met the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) chief at an Israeli detention center in Jerusalem.


Israel has said Saadat, taken into custody during a raid on a Jericho prison on Tuesday, gave the orders for the killing of cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi. The PFLP said it shot Zeevi to avenge Israel’s killing of one of its leaders.


Four members of a PFLP cell convicted by a Palestinian court in 2002 of carrying out the assassination were also seized by Israeli troops at the jail after a day-long siege.


Saadat was jailed by the Palestinians in connection with the assassination but was never convicted of the charge.


At a news conference Saadat’s attorney, Mahmoud Hassan, relayed defiant comments he said his client made to Israeli interrogators.


“I told the interrogators I do not recognize any interrogation,” Hassan quoted Saadat, 51, as saying. “This is illegal. I rejected my presence in their jails as illegal.”


Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told a separate news conference he had asked the United States and Britain to press Israel to hand “the abducted men” back to the Palestinian Authority immediately rather than put them on trial.


‘Jericho operation a crime’


Under a 1995 interim peace deal, Israel cannot re-try Palestinians if they have already been tried by a Palestinian court for the same offence, he said.


IDF forces besieged the Jericho prison, where Saadat had been held since 2002 under an international agreement, to bring him to Israel for trial after Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said he was prepared to free him.


The troops moved in minutes after U.S. And British monitors supervising Saadat’s incarceration left the jail. The United States and Britain said they had told Abbas a week ago the monitors could be withdrawn immediately, but both denied any

coordination with Israel over its raid.


Abbas described the Israeli operation as a “crime” that would not be forgiven.


U.S. Consul-General Jacob Walles met Abbas on Thursday and told reporters: “We explained the reasons why we removed the monitors, which was because of our concerns about their security, and he expressed his concerns of the event.”


The monitors were stationed at the jail under an arrangement that ended a 2002 Israeli siege of Yasser Arafat’s compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where Saadat and the other PFLP men were taking refuge.


Security officials pointed out that the decision on whether to try the six men rests with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, as well as whether the trial takes place in a civil or military court


Ali Waked contributed to the report


פרסום ראשון: 03.16.06, 18:26
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