BEIRUT: Police in France are cracking down on all demonstrations in support of George Ibrahim Abdallah’s release from prison for the first time, but protesters will remain undeterred in the their campaign, activists in Paris told The Daily Star Friday.
Judicial sources told Agence France Presse that the session scheduled for Jan. 28 to decide on Abdallah’s release had been postponed after the French prosecution filed an appeal.
“We are surprised at the aggressive methods of the French government against protesters; we have been demonstrating for years, but we haven’t been attacked this way,” said Alain Pojolat, a member of the Committee for the Release of George Abdallah.
Activists said that at least 40 protesters were detained by the French police minutes after nearly 150 demonstrators arrived near the Interior Ministry headquarters in Paris last weekend to protest the French government’s refusal to sign a deportation order for Abdallah.
“This was the first time protesters got arrested for demonstrating near the Interior Ministry,” Pojolat added.
He said the French government had adopted a more aggressive approach against movements in support of Abdallah’s release since the election of Francois Hollande as president.
The French police said that the arrests had been made because protesters had not received an official permit for a demonstration.
“Why would police attack demonstrators in a violent way just because they don’t have a demonstration permit?” asked Pojolat, who was among the protesters that were arrested.
He said the Interior Ministry’s refusal to approve a deportation order was part of the French government’s plan to keep Abdallah behind bars. “They don’t care about the court’s decision; French President Francois Hollande is following American and Israeli orders.”
Another activist, Abdallah Ibrahim Abdallah, said the movements by supporters of Abdallah would stretch across Europe until he was released.
“Demonstrations will not stop, they also took place in Bordeaux and Marseille last week and another one will take place in Toulouse this weekend. It seems the court’s decision will be a negative one this month, but we will continue our movements,” he told The Daily Star by phone.
According to French judicial sources, Abdallah is unlikely to be released this month since the plaintiff in Abdallah’s case has appealed the court’s latest decision to release him on condition of deportation.
“The appeal was made a few days after the Interior Ministry refused to sign the deportation order,” a judicial source said.
Abdallah Ibrahim Abdallah said members of the French Communist Party had expressed solidarity toward the case and contacts were ongoing with activists in Lebanon to continue their pressure on French authorities.
While French politicians have declined to disclose their positions on Abdallah’s release, a few Communist Party mayors have announced their support for the campaign.
Pojolat said that activists in Beirut should continue holding demonstrations in front of the French Embassy. “Protests should go on and become stronger, because the French government’s decision is an insult to the Lebanese people,” Pojolat added.
Meanwhile, a delegation from the International Campaign to Free George Abdallah met with Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi in Beirut Friday to discuss steps the Lebanese government should take in order to assist Interior Minister Charbel in establishing a ministerial committee.
Abdallah is serving a life sentence at Lannemezan prison in south western France on charges of murdering American and Israeli diplomats.