Lebanon News

Abdallah supporters vow action, France urges patience

Supporters of George Abdallah sit in a tent erected near the French Embassy in Beirut, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Supporters of George Abdallah vowed Tuesday to increase their actions to press for the deportation of the Lebanese citizen, as France’s envoy to Lebanon Patrice Paoli urged patience.

“We will stage more protests across Lebanon and we will not back off until Abdallah comes back home,” said Hasan Sabra, one of Abdallah’s supporters, speaking from outside the French Embassy in Lebanon.

Abdallah’s supporters started an open-ended sit-in outside the French Embassy in Mathaf, Beirut, after the deportation of Abdallah, which was accepted on Monday, was postponed until Jan. 28.

Sabra said another protest will take place the northern city of Tripoli Wednesday and that similar actions will also be held in his Akkar hometown of Qobayat.

The activist added that the International Campaign to Free George Abdallah is also organizing a protest movement in Paris outside the French defense ministry Saturday.

Another activist in the case, Bassam Qantar, urged the Cabinet to exert more efforts in the case and called for forming a ministerial committee to follow up on Abdallah’s case.

“We appreciate the statements of Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, but what they are doing is not enough,” said Qantar.

“A ministerial committee should be formed to follow up on the case and keep Abdallah’s family updated about the procedures of his deportation,” he added.

France’s ambassador to Lebanon Patrice Paoli urged patience Tuesday over the case.

Speaking to reporters following a meeting with Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour he urged the Lebanese to wait for the decision by French judiciary on Jan. 28.

Last week, a French court ruled Abdallah be released on condition that he be deported back to Lebanon, but the French Interior Ministry is yet to sign the order to expel him.

A statement released by the International Campaign to Free George Abdallah expressed confidence his homecoming was imminent, citing French reports that Interior Minister Manuel Valls had already signed the deportation order.

Friends, family and supporters of Abdallah geared up to celebrate his arrival in Beirut Monday.

But Abdallah was not released, prompting supporters to rally outside the French Embassy in Beirut, demanding his freedom.

Paoli pointed out the difference between the court’s decision to release Abdallah and that of the French interior ministry with regards to his deportation.

He stressed that Abdallah’s deportation, which lies in the hands of the interior minister, was being mulled at present, adding that a decision will be made by the relevant authorities.

Paoli acknowledged Tuesday that the French court decision to delay Abdallah’s release had provoked an angry reaction among supporters of the 61-year-old.

Mansour discussed with Paoli the delay in Abdallah’s deportation from France to Lebanon.

Paoli said he would convey Mansour’s concerns to Paris.

The prisoner’s brother, Joseph Abdallah, said the only explanation for the delay was that the French judiciary had “succumbed to U.S. pressure.”

Abdallah was arrested in 1984 and later convicted by a French court in the 1982 murders in Paris of Israeli diplomat Yaakov Bar-Simantov and Lt. Col. Charles Ray, an American military attache.

He was also implicated in the attempted assassination of U.S. Consul General Robert Homme in Strasbourg in 1984.

Dozens of relatives and friends of George Abdallah rallied outside the French Embassy in Beirut Monday to protest the delay in his release.

They also briefly blocked the main street leading to the French Embassy and clashed with police after egg- and stone- throwing demonstrators were prevented from storming the mission premises.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati criticized France’s decision and urged Paris to allow the process of Abdallah’s release from prison to proceed.

About a dozen protesters remained Tuesday in the tent they had set up near a Lebanese Army post opposite the lane of the French Embassy in Beirut.

Hezbollah MP Hussein Musawi slammed France Tuesday for keeping Abdallah behind bars, urging people to join the protest in Beirut and describing it as a march to break sectarian barriers.

“It is an unfair and dark scene that we see in France today where the banner for justice and democracy has fallen in the hands of officials subject to the Zionist American tyrant which makes us hear the sons of the French revolution damning their rulers,” Musawi said in a statement.

“We are witnessing in Beirut a scene of victory for rights, human dignity and justice, and we call on the free people of the world and the region to join in to start a Lebanese-Syrian march that includes [the Arab world] to break sectarian, confessional, racist and Takfiri barriers and march toward Jerusalem, which will forever remain the capital of Palestine and the free people,” he added.





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