Hundreds of protesters rallied in front of French cultural institutes across Lebanon Thursday to denounce the recent delays in the release Lebanese leftist Georges Abdallah, who has been jailed in France for 28 years
French institutes in Saida, Tripoli, Nabatiyeh, Baalbek and Tyre were all closed in anticipation of the protests. Supporters of Abdallah held banners denouncing what they call a politicization of justice.
A small scuffle erupted between demonstrators and police forces in Saida, however the protests were largely peaceful.
Abdallah was accused of being involved in the murder of two diplomats, an assistant to an American military and an Israeli in 1982. The court was not able to present concrete evidence against him.
In December, a French judge ruled that Abdallah’s latest appeal for parole – his eighth – could be granted, on the condition that he be expelled from France. His sentence exceeds the French legal limit for the maximum sentence by ten years.
However, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls refused to sign an extradition order Monday, raising concerns that Abdallah might see yet another chance at freedom slip away.
The Lebanese ambassador to France met Thursday with the French Foreign Minister to discuss the case.
French officials are now scheduled to meet on January 28 to formalize Abdallah’s parole, but his supporters fear the postponement is a first step to renew his detention.
France is subjected to intense pressure on the case by the United States and Israel, which consider Abdallah a dangerous terrorist.
Meanwhile, a sit-in in front of the French embassy continued unabated for a fourth day in Beirut. A tent erected across from the building has been hosting several dozens of demonstrators who take turns guarding the site day and night. Slogans graffitied on the wall read “Where is the France of May 1968?” or “France = American whore,” referencing a recent interview by Abdallah’s lawyer, Jacques Verges.
One of the sit-in organizers, Khodor Salameh, said that the demonstrators were determined to make their voices heard.
“We are staying until the liberation of Georges Abdallah, whether it happens on January 28 or later,” he said.
He said the majority of participants of the sit-in were “optimistic” that Abdallah would be released.
Another organizer, Hassan Sabra, also expressed confidence as to the outcome of the case.
“George is coming,” he asserted.
More protests are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in Beirut. Abdallah supporters abroad are also planning demonstrations, most notably in Paris.