The Administrative Court of Montreuil, France held a hearing on Monday, 21 March on the posting of a banner calling for freedom for Palestinian political prisoner Marwan Barghouti on the city hall of Stains, by the elected officials of Stains. The Prefect (an official appointed by the central French state) demanded the removal of the banner, which was refused by the mayor, Azzedine Taibi.
Taibi, elected as a member of the Communist Party of France as mayor of Stains, has refused to remove the banner where it has been posted since 2009 by his predecessor, Michel Beaumale. Taibi’s lawyer, Roland Weyl, noted that despite the charges of the Prefect – representing the Manuel Valls government – the banner has been hanging for seven years and has caused no “disturbance of public order.”
The Valls government has escalated its attempts to suppress the Palestine solidarity movement, including working to criminalize the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and putting BDS activists on trial for calling on the French public not to purchase Israeli goods in protest of Israeli occupation, apartheid and settler colonialism.
Weyl also noted that the Prefect’s other charge, that the banner had a “lack of local interest,” was also false as the City of Stains is twinned with Al-Amari Palestinian refugee camp and works on multiple projects on Palestine with local associations. Stains is also a part of the network of French communities urging the release of Palestinian elected officials, which includes 15 French cities such as La Courneuve, Gennevilliers, Ivry-sur-Seine, La Verriere, Haveluy and Allones. All of these cities have named Marwan Barghouti an honorary citizen; the mayors of Gennevilliers, Montreuil, Aubervilliers, and La Courneuve expressed their support for Taibi and rejection of the demand that the banner be removed.
The hearing lasted only a half-hour; the judges ordered Taibi to remove the banner pending the results of the hearing, to be released in five to six months. Taibi, supported by nearly 150 residents of Stains, solidarity activists and elected officials in attendance to both defend freedom of expression and call for the release of Palestinian prisoners, refused to remove the banner, stating that it would remain in place. The banner is currently posted at Stains’ City Hall.
Taibi said following the hearing, “We will not take down the banner. We are defending a just cause: respect for international law, promoting the values of peace and the right of the Palestinian people, like all peoples, to self-determination. We are proud to display these values, and I do not understand why the Prefect is continuing to pursue our city for this banner that has been hanging since 2009 at our City Hall. Daily, with my municipal team, we have so many issues to deal with in order to defend the dignity and respect of the people of Stains. On the issues of the rights to work, to housing, to security, to education, we need the State to play its proper role, and not to prevent us from freely expressing the values of the people of our town, the values of which we are proud. Administering a city, is also taking a position to defend the values of liberty, equality and fraternity, in our country and in the world. Fortunately, in the past, many mayors including those in Stains, and citizens around the world, acted to call for the release of Nelson Mandela, who was long considered like a terrorist by part of the French political class. As a mayor and as a citizen, it is also my duty to defend just international causes, including denouncing the apartheid suffered by the Palestinian people for over half a century. As we express our support for the Kurdish people, for Syrian refugees, and all oppressed peoples in the world.”
Photos: Azzedine Taibi Facebook/EuroPalestine