It is an open secret that radical rebel Georges Abdallah, largely ignored by western media, was illegally sentenced to life in prison close to three decades ago. But French authorities continue to insist on keeping him behind bars, even after he has completed his prison term.
Paris – French authorities are insisting on keeping an ex-fighter in the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions (LARF) in prison, despite the fact that 28 years have passed since he was first detained. This is a major breach of French legal procedures and the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that prisoners serving a life sentence must be released after serving a maximum of 18 years.
Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, who began his struggle as a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), before joining the LARF, was arrested in Lyon on October 1984. At the time, the LARF was accused of a number of high profile commando operations, the most prominent of which were the assassination of the American military attache in Paris, Charles Robert Ray (18 January 1982) and the Israeli diplomat, Ya’acov Bar-Simantov (3 April 1982).
Initially, French authorities could not find enough evidence to charge Abdallah in connection with those cases. Apart from some leaflets showing he belonged to the LARF and a fake Algerian passport in his possession, the authorities were hard pressed to make a case against him. Therefore, when he came before the court for the first time in July 1986, he was indicted on only one charge, the use of a fake travel document.
In his memoirs, titled The Elysee Years, and published in 1988, Jacques Attali, the adviser to President Francois Mitterand, wrote on 6 March 1985: “We have no proof against Georges Ibrahim Abdallah. Therefore, the only thing we can charge him with is possession of a fake passport.”
Abdallah originally should have been released from prison after 18 months. But his case soon took a very different turn, leading to his conviction and life imprisonment.
Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who was a member of Abdallah’s defense team (then headed by the notorious lawyer Jacques Verges), recalls the details of the “judicial conspiracy” against the Lebanese revolutionary, saying: “Abdallah was suddenly recalled to the court on 28 February 1987. We were surprised that he was facing different charges and new evidence which was not included in his file during the first trial. The prosecution claimed that weapons had been found in secret hideaways and flats belonging to Abdallah. This was taken as proof of his participation in the commando operations carried out by the LARF in France in 1982.”
Coutant-Peyre adds: “The court did not hesitate in sentencing our client to life imprisonment, despite the protests of the defense team that the evidence against him was not included in the original trial and was fabricated later to convict him retroactively. This was a major breach of legal procedure.” It was clear that Abdallah had become the victim of an intelligence conspiracy.
However, the details of the conspiracy plotted by the French DST (internal intelligence) were not revealed until the 10th anniversary of Abdallah’s conviction. In his memoirs, titled The Fight Against Espionage: Memoirs of the Director of DST, the former director of French intelligence, Yves Bonnet, also revealed some of the threads of the conspiracy.
“We were able to gather enough information against Abdallah after the head of the anti-terrorist network, Jean Francois Clair, succeeded in recruiting an informant who was very close to the LARF,” Bonnet wrote. He only referred to the informant at the time as “Jean Paul M.” and indicated that he was a lawyer.
In July 2001, when Abdallah had already been in prison for 17 years, the lawyer Jean Paul Mazurier, a member of Abdallah’s defense team, threw a bombshell that shook the French judiciary system. In a long interview with Liberation, he confessed to being the informant alluded to by Yves Bonnet. The lawyer revealed in detail how French intelligence had recruited him to spy on his client (which in itself is enough evidence to repeal Abdallah’s sentence).
Mazurier added that the DST told him to make his client think that he shared his belief in revolutionary ideas and the struggle for the Palestinian cause. Abdallah began to trust him and brought him to meet his friends in the LARF in Lebanon. This made it easier for French intelligence to penetrate their group and gather evidence to convict Abdallah.
As a result of the scandal ignited by the confessions of the lawyer-informant, everyone expected Abdallah’s defense team to raise a challenge to the court to overturn the conviction against its client. French law prohibits the use of lawyers, doctors, or journalists to spy on the accused and to gather evidence against them.
However, the defense team did no such thing. They decided to wait until 2002 to present a request to release Abdallah because his sentence had expired. Despite repeated rejections of these requests over a ten year period, the defense team has refrained from putting in a request to overturn the conviction on the basis of the espionage incident. EveryoneAl-Akhbar spoke to on the defense team refused to discuss the reasons behind this. One of them said: “That question should be put to Abdallah’s comrades in the LARF.”
As for the former director of DST, Yves Bonnet, he admits now that what happened was “an illegal intelligence conspiracy.”
“We really did behave like criminals in this case,” he said, adding, “I have to add my voice today to those who are calling for Abdallah’s release. It is time to put an end to the gross injustice we committed against him.”