Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati deserves credit for raising Georges Ibrahim Abdallah’s case with the French authorities during his latest trip to France earlier this month. Abdallah’s family and those campaigning for his freedom (which include Lebanese, Arab, and European groups), see it is a major step forward.
For 28 years (the time Abdallah, now 61, has spent in prison) we have been trying in vain to get the Lebanese state to recognize that this Lebanese citizen is Lebanese. Since former premier Salim al-Hoss received us when he was last in office in 1991, no head of government had agreed to even listen to this Lebanese citizen’s case. No Lebanese president has done so to date.
But our sense of achievement is tempered by concern about the implications of the term “humanitarian question,” which the prime minister – who is to be thanked nonetheless – used in calling for Abdallah’s release. We wish he had instead based his approach on the letter sent by MP Simon Abi-Ramia to the Lebanese foreign minister, which included a legal overview of Abdallah’s case. He could also have based it on the position taken by former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, the views expressed by lawyer Jacques Verges, or the recent public statements about France’s “state vengeance” made by Yves Bonnet.
Bonnet was the former head of the French intelligence service, the DST, who oversaw Georges’ arrest. He was due this Wednesday to present testimony, at his own request, to the French judiciary about the injustices to which this Lebanese citizen has been subjected and abuses committed by the French state.
We are perturbed by the phrase “it is a humanitarian question,” because in a case like this, of a prisoner in his 60s who has spent nearly half his life behind bars, it implies that his release would be an act of compassion or charity. There is no harm in letting him live out his remaining days at home.
The right to resist
Georges’ case could be considered “humanitarian” in a different sense – in that it relates to the human rights which are enshrined in the UN charter. We hope that is what the prime minister intended.
These include the right of the citizen of any country in the world to resist aggression against their homeland by all means available. That right extends to Abdallah, whose country had been without a state since 1976 because of a civil war triggered by repeated acts of Zionist aggression – culminating in the invasion and occupation of Beirut – with the participation of European countries and the United States of America.
Abdallah was engaged in politics and resistance, in keeping with these rights. It is the French authorities who violated human rights considering the manner in which they arrested and sentenced him, and by keeping him incarcerated to this day.
Abdallah did not attack France or the French. He did not turn France into a battlefield. He went to France as a resistance fighter. He went there to go after operatives of the Zionist entity and the US, the two principal aggressors against his country, in the absence of the Lebanese state, which their aggression had destroyed. He went to France because it was already a battlefield where Arab and Palestinian patriots were tracked and hunted down, as well as a source of French mercenaries and saboteurs sent to various parts of the world, including Lebanon.
Policies of aggression against Lebanon – Western in general and Zionist in particular – and France’s contribution to them, gave birth to the phenomenon of Abdallah. They had spawned many like him before – such as Wadie Haddad and Anis al-Naccache – and continued to do so after him.
These policies gave birth to what used to be called “foreign operations,” which most of the Palestinian factions were involved in, along with many other national liberation movements. Those falsely branded as “terrorists” were acting in line with their human rights. The case of Abdallah is one of legitimate national resistance.
Manipulation and fabrication
Abdallah was arrested in France in 1984, tried twice, and was eventually sentenced in 1987 to life imprisonment, despite the fact that there was no material evidence against him.
There was blatant manipulation of the legal process by French security agencies. This began with the bribing of attorney Jean Paul Mazurier, a member of Abdallah’s defense team, who provided false testimony under pressure from French intelligence. He later admitted this himself, as documented in Laurent Gally’s book L’Agent Noir, and was subsequently expelled from the French lawyers’ union.
The French state’s manipulation and deliberate fabrication of the case against Abdallah has become a matter of public knowledge. It has been openly discussed by key figures who were involved.
It was frankly acknowledged by Alain Marsaud, the French prosecutor in charge of counter-terrorism in the 1980s, in his 2002 book Before We Forget Everything.
Bonnet has repeatedly discussed the matter on French television and in the press over the past two years. He has said he feels personal guilt for the injustice done to Abdallah, castigated the French state for its behavior, and requested to submit his testimony about it to the judiciary.
Is that unrelated to human rights, making this a “humanitarian” case? This is a case of the French authorities subverting the legal process.
When, despite all that, a parole court approved Abdallah’s release in November 2003, the French authorities objected. They deferred to the American claim that he was too dangerous to free.
One US communique to the French authorities maintained that Abdallah was a key figure in a Lebanese-based Syrian-backed terrorist organization which was planning to assassinate European and American officials. It said he would likely engage in terrorism again if released, and might target Lebanese politicians who oppose Syrian hegemony. This was backed up by a French intelligence finding that Abdallah’s release would be a “destabilizing factor” for Lebanon.
Accordingly, in January 2004, a higher parole court overturned the earlier ruling under which Abdallah would have been released but barred from re-entering French territory.
Does the US interfering in French court decisions, and their threats against the French authorities, not count as a factor in this “humanitarian” case?
On 6 February 2007, Abdallah filed yet another request for parole. On March 9, the US State Department served notice to the French government, saying: “The Government of the United States expresses its strong opposition to the possibility of parole for Abdallah that may result from forthcoming proceedings before the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris.”
The reaction of the French authorities to this bore little resemblance to that voiced by Prime Minister Francois Fillon in response to Mikati’s raising of Abdallah’s case: That this is the preserve of the French judiciary!
In their 2003 book Les Masques du Terrorisme, authors Patrice de Meritens and Charles Villeneuve give an account of a conversation that took place after Abdallah was arrested between the then CIA director, William Casey, and France’s security minister, Robert Pandraud.
At a dinner he hosted, Pandraud was treated to a furious tirade by Casey. He demanded a life sentence for Abdallah, saying the US would accept nothing less, and threatened dire diplomatic consequences if France failed to comply.
Pandraud reportedly replied that he could offer the US something more: Abdallah could be released and sent back to the Middle East. France would keep tabs on him and inform the US of his whereabouts, which could then easily employ its ample resources and networks to get him eliminated. The subject would then be forgotten.
Could this yet happen now?
Is that French justice?
Joseph Abdallah is a member of the International Campaign to Free Georges Abdallah.