|January 19, 2013 03:06 PM (Last updated: January 19, 2013 05:08 PM)|
| By Mohammed Zaatari |
BINT JBEIL, Lebanon: Supporters of George Abdallah held Saturday a protest outside two bases belonging to the French contingent of the U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon and demanded Paris release the leftist militant.
Amid tight security, around 200 protesters held photos of Abdallah and signs calling for his deportation, which France recently put on hold.
“I will carry on resisting,” one sign read, quoting the Lebanese national who has spent almost three decades in French prisons.
Last week, a French court ordered Abdallah’s release on condition he be deported. However, the French Interior Ministry surprisingly rejected his deportation order, resulting in the postponement of a decision on whether to release him to Jan. 28.
Ahead of the protest, the Lebanese Army, backed by military vehicles, cordoned off the two headquarters, considered to be the largest bases belonging to the French contingent of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
Some 50 soldiers equipped with anti-riot batons were stationed outside the central and logistics headquarters, which are located in the village of Der Kifa of Bint Jbeil.
Three protesters who tried to scale the wall of one of the bases and spray paint “Free George Abdallah” in French were pulled back down by Lebanese soldiers.
Organizers of the protest pleaded with the men not to attempt to scale the wall again and rally in a peaceful manner to avert clashes with security forces.
One protester warned Paris that such rallies would continue until Abdallah was released.
“Listen well: we are here to affirm that the work of French institutions will not be possible as long as Abdallah is imprisoned. We will not be complacent with you,” a man yelled through a loudspeaker.
Addressing the U.N. troops, he said that the French peacekeepers were “not here to protect peace but to protect terrorism, the policy of force and the suppression of freedoms.”
Abdallah’s brother, Joseph, described France as the “state of terror.”
During the rally, Lebanese soldiers also prevented the demonstrators from blocking a U.N. vehicle belonging to the Tanzanian contingent of UNIFIL from leaving one of the bases.
French peacekeepers, stationed on elevated platforms, gazed through binoculars as the protest proceeded, the gates to their bases sealed shut with metal chains.
Lebanon has witnessed a series of sit-ins by Abdallah’s supporters. Some have targeted French interests in the country over the delay in deporting the leftist militant from France.
Earlier this week, Abdallah’s supporters vandalized the French culture center in the southern coastal city of Sidon. This came days after a protest outside the French mission in Beirut.
The International Campaign to Free George Abdallah has vowed to hold continuous protests in the coming days in Lebanon and in other countries to guarantee his release.
Interior Minister Marwan assured France’s ambassador to Lebanon Friday that measures had been taken to protect all French interests in the wake of the protests.
Abdallah was arrested by French authorities in 1984 and sentenced to life in prison by a French court in 1987 for the 1982 murders of American Lt. Col. Charles Ray and Israeli diplomat Yaakov Bar-Simantov in Paris. Abdallah is eligible to parole since 1999.
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