marwan-barghouthi-franceA delegation of 13 French mayors will visit Palestine from 13-17 June, and are demanding to be allowed to meet Marwan Barghouthi, the imprisoned Palestinian parliamentarian and political leader. Barghouthi has been imprisoned for 14 years; the Israeli occupation has given no indication whether it plans to allow the meeting.

The delegation is headed by Patrice Leclerc, the mayor of Gennevilliers representing the Communist Party of France. Gennevilliers 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, Stains, Ivry-sur-Seine, La Verriere, Haveluy and Allones. All of these cities have named Marwan Barghouthi an honorary citizen; there is currently a campaign, supported by Desmond Tutu, Belgian parliamentarians, Tunisian and Argentinian Nobelists, and others, to nominate Barghouthi for a Nobel Peace Prize.

At the same time, on 14 June at 9 am, fellow French mayor Azzedine Taibi, also of the PCF and mayor of Stains, will appear before the administrative tribunal of Montreuil for arguments in defense of the city’s right to place a banner on its town hall calling for Barghouthi’s release.

The Prefect (an official appointed by the central French state) demanded the removal of the banner, which was refused by the mayor, Azzedine Taibi. Many of the mayors on the delegation, including the mayors of Gennevilliers, Montreuil, Aubervilliers, and La Courneuve have expressed their support for Taibi and rejection of the demand that the banner be removed.

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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 appeared in the court previously on 21 March, where substantive arguments were not heard; this session will include arguments on the merits of the case.

BNVCA, a French organization that bills itself as opposing anti-Semitism yet places the bulk of its efforts in attempts to criminalize Palestine solidarity and support anti-Palestinian repression, has placed itself as a civil party in the case on the side of the central government, demanding the banner’s removal.

Following the March hearing, Taibi said, ” “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.”