BEIRUT: A French court reportedly postponed the hearing in the case of George Abdallah to Feb. 28 as dozens of supporters of the 61-year-old Lebanese militant protested outside the French embassy in Beirut.
Riot police were out in force outside the French mission to stop any potential unrest as some 200 friends and family of Abdallah assembled outside the embassy offices in Beirut.
The activists had gathered outside the embassy earlier in the day ahead of the court session which commenced at 3 p.m. (Beirut time). Interior Minister Marwan Charbel also arrived at the protest site.
At 3 p.m. several media agencies reported that the Abdallah hearing had been postponed to next month.
The gathering outside the French mission took place despite a Western media report that quoted judicial sources in France as saying that the session had been postponed after the French prosecution filed an appeal.
“We don’t believe in statements made by judicial sources. We will gather in front of the French Embassy to hear about the latest developments,” activist Bassam Qantar told The Daily Star.
But Qantar warned that activists would take various actions in the event Abdallah was not set free.
He said Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour promised during a meeting with the Committee for the Release of George Abdallah Monday to address the issue during this week’s Cabinet meeting.
“Mansour said he would propose during a Cabinet meeting tomorrow the formation of a ministerial committee to follow up on Abdallah’s case,” Qantar said following talks with the foreign minister.
Qantar also slammed France, accusing Washington of exerting pressure on Paris to keep Abdallah behind bars.
The French Embassy sent out text messages late last week to its nationals in Lebanon informing them that French institutes and consulates would be closed Monday due to possible demonstrations.
Hundreds of friends and supporters staged a sit-in near the French Embassy in Beirut earlier this month to protest the unexpected delay in the long-awaited release of Abdallah.
The protest began hours after a French court postponed its decision on the release of Abdallah until Jan. 28.
The Lebanese prisoner’s release was delayed after the French Interior Ministry refused to approve his deportation order, even though he was granted parole by a French court a week prior on the condition he leave the country.
The leftist militant was 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.