The Administrative Court of Montreuil in France rejected on Tuesday, 28 June an appeal by the Seine-Saint-Denis prefecture (representing the central French state), demanding the removal of a banner supporting Palestinian prisoner and leader Marwan Barghouthi from the front of the city hall of Stains, in a victory for supporters of Palestinian political prisoners and Stains’ mayor Azzedine Taibi.
The court found that the prefecture’s arguments were inadmissible and invalid, despite an earlier temporary order that the banner must be removed. Azzedine Taibi, the mayor of Stains and a representative of the French Communist Party, said that “This is not a personal victory but a collective victory!…Marwan Barghouthi will remain an honorary citizen of our city and I know that one day, he will be on our side, here in Stains, the city of popular resistance! The struggle and the mobilization will only grow for the liberation of Marwan Barghouti and all Palestinian political prisoners…”
The prefect – representing the government of Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who has urged prosecution of BDS activists and the suppression of the movement to boycott Israel – argued that the banner was “not of local interest” and likely to lead to a “disturbance of public order.” Manuel Valls, as Minister of the Interior, previously intervened in the case of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah – after intervention from US Secretary of State and now presidential candidate Hillary Clinton – to block the release to Lebanon on parole of the Lebanese Communist prisoner and struggler for Palestine who has been imprisoned in French jails for 32 years.
The prefect’s case was dismissed, as was a complaint filed against the mayor by the BNCVA, a pro-Zionist organization that nominally combats anti-Semitism but in practice focuses on attempts to suppress Palestine solidarity and the boycott of Israel, which accused Taibi of “public apology for terrorism” for his support of Barghouti.
Stains is one of a group of 23 French municipalities who have named the imprisoned Fateh leader and Palestinian Legislative Council member an honorary citizen. A delegation of 16 French mayors was prohibited from visiting Barghouthi in Gilboa prison in Palestine by the Israeli occupation on 14 June; the mayors participated later in a press conference in support of the campaign to nominate Marwan Barghouthi for a Nobel Peace Prize, a campaign supported by Belgian parliamentarians, Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, and the Tunisian winners of the 2015 Peace Prize.
Taibi hosted a ceremony outside the Stains City Hall on Wednesday night, 29 June, celebrating the victory and the official unveiling and replacement of the “Free Marwan Barghouthi” banner to the front entrance of the Stains city hall.
The Stains victory is one of several in France against attempts to criminalize or suppress the Palestine solidarity movement or the boycott of Israel. A court in Créteil dismissed a prosecution for “incitement to discrimintion” against Jean-Claude Lefort pursued by the Association France-Israel and “Lawyers Without Borders” on 24 June, because he had called for a boycott of Israeli products; the court noted that this was a matter of expression on a “debate of general international interest.” In addition, the municipality of Bondy voted on Thursday, 23 June to refuse to purchase goods made in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Today, 30 June, 4 BDS activists will face a trial in Toulouse; they are accused of “obstructing the normal exercise of economic activity of three stores” for distributing leaflets in public squares in support of the boycott of Israeli goods. The prosecution was initiated by LICRA, a French pro-Israel advocacy organization; activists are mobilizing outside the courthouse at 1 pm in support of the 4 accused organizers.