The longest-held political prisoner
of the European continent
He has been in prison longer than Nelson Mandela. He is the longest-held political prisoner of the European continent, and probably one of the longest-held in the world. He is Georges Ibrahim Abdallah who was sentenced on October 24th, 1987 to life imprisonment.
In his statement to the press on October 23rd, 2013, his lawyer, Jean-Louis Chalanset said: “Today is the 30th anniversary of his detention, they are refusing to expel him, as this is the only condition to end his imprisonment, in defiance of the decisions rendered by judges and to
all customs relating to foreigners subject to criminal penalties. It should be noted that France never detained a political prisoner as long as Georges Ibrahim Abdallah.”
Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, began his struggle with the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions (LARF), was arrested in Lyon on 24 October 1984. At the time (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).
Georges Abdallah was given a life sentence in a controversial hearing, which was considered a stain on the French legal system.
The trial suffered from numerous flaws, beginning with using some of Abdallah’s lawyers to spy on him. Evidence against him was also fabricated retroactively by French, US and Israeli intelligence.
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
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. Everyone in 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.” he said, describing the actions of French authorities.
France has kept Abdallah in custody for 30 years despite the fact that prisoners are legally allowed to ask for release on bail after spending
15 years in prison. French law also limits the maximum sentence of any prisoner to 18 years.
Georges Ibrahim Abdallah could have been released on parole as early as 1999. Still, even though Lebanon was willing to host him, the conditional release was denied to him eight times.
This refusal is particularly shameful, especially that back in 1985, as part of negotiations for the release of a French hostage, the highest French authorities had accepted to release him. Still, they haven’t kept their word. This outraged the former Director of the Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DST), Yves Bonnet : “This injustice has been lasting for too long ; it has even exceeded the bounds of reasonableness. Put him on a plane and send him home, in Lebanon, where the authorities manifested their will to accept him.” (Statement on France 24, December 28th, 2011).
In January 2012, prisoner of the French State, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah lodged an eighth request at the French court to be released on
parole. The Government of the United States reacted promptly.
On January 11th 2013, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision to release Georges Abdallah, shortly after which the Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Victoria Nuland declared: “The Government of the United States expresses its firm opposition on the possibility of releasing Georges Ibrahim Abdallah on parole.” The U.S. authorities forgot, by acting so, that the criminal sanction and deprivation of liberty are powers given solely to the States and not their neighbors or allies.
Since his arrest on October 24th, 1984 until the recent decision rendered by the Supreme Court on April 4th, 2013, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah has been subject to exceptional treatment: two months after his first conviction (sentenced to serve four years in prison in July 1986 with a ban from entering the French territories for five years) by the Lyons Criminal Court, special courts were created to follow the files in details: “Section 14 of the prosecution department, the famous antiterrorism chamber lead the investigation, the special Penal Courts of Paris condemned, and a judge specialized in the enforcement of special sentences controlled the adjustment of penalties.
The law relating to the preventive detention, called “Dati law”, passed in February 2008, and made mandatory the opinion of a multidisciplinary commission for security measures (CPMS) as part of releases on parole for lifers. The latter should spend six weeks in the
National Observation Centre (now called the National Assessment Centre) of Fresnes, in order to appraise their dangerousness. This law, which was created to measure the potential for recidivism of persons convicted for sexual crimes, was applied first on political prisoners such as Georges Abdallah and activists of direct action.
The latest request to be released on parole filed by Georges Abdallah was made in January 2012. Following the positive opinion given in
November 2012 by the court of enforcement of sentences, the whole file was re-examined by the prosecutor (representing the state and under the responsibility of the Minister of Justice) and the release of Georges Abdallah was blocked: the Minister of the Interior refused to sign the necessary eviction order, and the case witnessed many adjournments, multiple appeals, and claims before the supreme court. After 15 months, the release request was judged inadmissible.
The French government mentioned in its response relating to the arbitrary detention what follows: On the request to be released on parole:
“first the committee should recall that under the French law, the release on parole is a mode of enforcement of imprisonment allowing a convicted person to be released before the end of his sentence under certain conditions. This measure has a judicial character; it is granted by a judge of enforcement of sentences, a court of enforcement of sentences or a chamber of enforcement of sentences, and the decisions taken in this context may be subject to appeal. The law enumerates conditions for admissibility in terms of minimum enforcement time of the penalties and requires that the person convicted manifests efforts of social rehabilitation appreciated by the court ruling over the case. A
release on parole subjects the convicted to a certain number of obligations ensuring his return to normal life in satisfactory conditions for him and for the public order.”
Georges fulfilled all the elements required to make him a suitable candidate to be released; this was confirmed by the French courts three times. The first time in 2003 and twice in 2012, however, the French government introduced “legal” objections in the form and contradictory exceptions in the substance: “the eviction decision is adopted by the Minister of the Interior, the only authority entitled to take such action and is not bound by the decision on a conditional release.”
Georges Abdallah case is purely political, and based on the political situation featured mainly by the oppression of the U.S. administration
through the voice of U.S. President Obama and the declarations of the Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Victoria Nuland.
Therefore, the process of refusal to release Georges Abdallah includes many gaps, including what follows:
On November 21st, 2012 the decision to release George Abdallah was declared.
On December 10th, 2013 the Court of Appeal upheld the decision to release him.
On January 14th, 2013 the Minister of the Interior refused to sign the eviction proceedings, and the release was postponed to January 28th,
On January 15th, 2013 the decision was appealed and the prosecutor filed a motion in court.
On January 2013 concurrently a claim was lodged before the Supreme Court AND a second appeal which was not sent to Georges or to his lawyer as duly required. The document relating to this second appeal does not have any file number and does not bare the initials of the retained person according to the procedure.
On January 28th, 2013 the decision was postponed until February 28th, 2013 without justification. On March 20, the Supreme Court ruled and postponed the decision until April 4th.
Repeated delays, duplication of authorities between the Court of Appeal and the Court of enforcement of the penalty and the exchange of roles between the Ministries of Justice and the Ministry of Interior show only the confusion of the French administration and its struggle to find a “legal formality” to justify its arbitrary decision of preventing the liberation of Georges Abdallah.
This is why Mr. Georges Ibrahim Abdallah should benefit from a release on parole under reserves of enforcement of the decision to ban his entry on the French territories ordered by the Criminal Court of Lyon on July 17th, 1986.
This is why we call to end this injustice and to take action, whatsoever the foreign pressures may be, to release Georges Abdallah and let him go back to Lebanon.