BEIRUT: Interior Minister Marwan Charbel assured France’s ambassador to Lebanon Friday that measures had been taken to protect all French interests in the wake of protests related to the continued detention of George Abdallah.
Charbel made his remarks to Patrice Paoli during a meeting at the Interior Ministry that covered the case of Abdallah and the repercussions his continued arrest could have on French interests in Lebanon.
Lebanon has witnessed a series of sit-ins by supporters of Abdallah against offices of the French Cultural Institute in Lebanon this week to protest the delay in his release, which was expected to take place Monday. Demonstrators began a sit-in near the French Embassy in Beirut Monday.
Last week, a French court ordered his release on the condition that he is deported. However, the French Interior Ministry surprisingly rejected his deportation order, resulting in the postponement of a decision on whether to release him to Jan. 28.
The International Campaign to Free George Abdallah has vowed to hold continuous protests in the coming days in Lebanon and in other countries to guarantee his release. Supporters of Abdallah are expected to protest near a base for French peacekeepers in the southern village of Srifa Saturday.
Hasan Sabra, from the International Campaign to Free George Abdallah, told The Daily Star that protesters were planning to block the road near the base. Sabra also explained that a huge demonstration would take place Sunday near the French Embassy in Beirut.
Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said Lebanon was eager to preserve the “historical and special relationship with France,” noting that the case of Abdallah was humanitarian, and voiced hope that he would be released on Jan. 28.
The Lebanese Center for Human Rights urged French Interior Minister Manuel Valls Friday to sign the order to expel Abdallah.
“Legally speaking, Mr. Abdallah fulfilled the requirements for a conditional release. Politically speaking, the time that has passed since the crimes he was convicted of should be enough to generate circumstances that do not oppose this measure,” said the center in an appeal to Valls.
“French prisons are crowded, and it is hard to fathom that the French government is hesitant to release a foreign detainee who will be-and he demands to be-deported,” added the statement.
For his part Michel Musa, the head of Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, said that the continued arrest of Abdallah by French authorities is a flagrant violation of human rights championed by the French Revolution.
Abdallah was arrested by French authorities in 1984 and sentenced to life in prison by a French court in 1987 for the 1982 murders of American Lt. Col. Charles Ray and Israeli diplomat Yaakov Bar-Simantov in Paris. Abdallah is eligible to parole since 1999. His family and supporters argue that accusations against him are fabricated and that he is still in prison because of U.S. and Israeli pressure.