On 21 November 2012, a French court finally ordered the release of Georges Abdallah from prison and his immediate return to his country of origin, Lebanon. French Minister of Interior Manuel Valls was given until 14 January 2013 to sign the deportation papers, which he has refused to do until this day.
For its part, the justice ministry appealed on the very same day, asking that Abdallah’s release from prison be overturned due to the fact that all the conditions for his release were not complete. The appeals judge responded on 10 January 2013, sticking to the 14 January 2013 deportation date.
The justice minister appealed again, this time to France’s high court of cassation, which has yet to set a date for the hearing. Diplomatic and media sources suggest that the hearing will be held sometime in mid-March. This means that Abdallah’s deportation hearing, set for 28 February, is meaningless.
This game of appeals and the postponement of hearings, combined with the dueling interventions of the interior and justice ministers could very well prolong Abdallah’s imprisonment.
State of Solidarity
The November 2012 French court order to release Abdallah sparked a massive wave of sympathy and solidarity among many Lebanese on both the official and popular levels. Consequent attempts to delay his release only invigorated this budding movement.
Activists responded quickly to the French government’s refusal to deport Abdallah with a sit-in at its embassy in Beirut.
A near consensus soon emerged among the Lebanese supporting Abdallah, with unions, student organizations, municipalities, and elected officials joining supporting our campaign. This, in turn, prompted the Lebanese government to officially take up the case by appointing a ministerial committee to follow up with the French government.
Points of Unity
We have now reached a point where the solidarity movement reflects a wide spectrum of politics present in Lebanon today, ranging from leftists to Islamists. At a minimum, all agree that the French court enact its decision to release and deport Abdallah.
In order to further pressure the French government, the movement needs to broaden its support base for future actions. This requires adherence to this basic demand so as not to alienate anyone.
Practically, this means that our actions, slogans, and signs should be broad and inclusive, staying away from calls for violent action or political factionalism. Abdallah does not belong to any political organization and it is unacceptable that he be claimed by any party or faction, other than the official International Campaign to Free Georges Abdallah.
We urge all those involved in the campaign to take into account the above observations as points of unity around which we can build the broadest possible movement.
Such an approach is critical to mobilizing the numbers we need at our next demonstration in front of the French embassy in Beirut on 28 February 2013, set to coincide with Abdallah’s scheduled deportation hearing.
Joseph Abdallah is a member of the International Campaign to Free Georges Abdallah.