On the march to Lannemezan: Growing campaign to free Georges Abdallah

Buses are filling up from across France for the annual march on Saturday, 22 October, in Lannemezan, where imprisoned Lebanese Communist struggler for Palestine Georges Ibrahim Abdallah is held. The march will progress from the train station in Lannemezan to the prison, where participants will ensure their voices are heard inside, demanding freedom for Georges Abdallah and all prisoners of the Palestinian cause, and showing support and solidarity to the Palestinian people and their resistance in the liberation struggle. For over 10 years, this march has brought together hundreds and thousands of people to demand the release of Abdallah, jailed in France for 38 years.

The annual march marks the anniversary of his arrest on 24 October 1984, demanding his liberation and return to his homeland Lebanon, which has been repeatedly denied despite multiple judicial and political victories. This year, it will take place on Saturday, 22 October at 2 pm, marching from the train station in Lannemezan to the prison.

Buses and Group Transit to Lannemezan

In Toulouse, the Collectif Palestine Vaincra, a member organization of the Samidoun Network, is organizing a free bus to Lannemezan, leaving at 11:30 am from the Basso Cambo metro in Toulouse and returning in the evening. Participants may register by emailing collectifpalestinevaincra@gmail.com.

Group travel will also proceed from multiple cities throughout France. People may email campagne.unitaire.gabdallah@gmail.com for departures from Paris and liberonsgeorges33@riseup.net for departures from Bordeaux. Carpooling and buses from Marseille, Foix, Montauban, Saint-Girons and Pau are also being organized, with details and contact information at the Facebook event.

Toulouse event for liberation: Georges Abdallah to Palestine

The evening before the demonstration, on Friday, 21 October, the Collectif will host an event in Toulouse linking the struggle for a liberated Palestine with the campaign to free Georges Abdallah. The event will take place the Bourse du Travail, a labour union hall in Toulouse, at 7 pm. Speakers will include Elsa Lefort, the wife of Salah Hamouri and the spokesperson of the committee urging the imprisoned French-Palestinian lawyer’s freedom; Pierre Stambul, of the French Jewish Union for Peace, a longterm struggler for Palestinian liberation, anti-racism and anti-colonialism; and Jaldia Abubakra, of Samidoun Spain and the Masar Badil, the Alternative Palestinian Revolutionary Path.

There is growing enthusiasm throughout France for the release of Georges Abdallah. On Friday, 7 October, two activists ran onto the field of Lyon Stadium during a football march, carrying Palestinian flags and t-shirts calling for Abdallah’s freedom. The widely televised and seen incident drew attention to the case, and the two activists were held for two nights in jail before being released:

Another group in Toulon organized a protest on Monday, 17 October to urge the liberation of Abdallah:

These events are building on a number of events and activities marking the month of action for the liberation of Georges Abdallah. On Tuesday, 11 October, the Collectif organized a screening of Fedayin: Georges Abdallah’s Fight, the film by Collectif Vacarme(s) Films that highlights the Abdallah’s life and struggle alongside that of the Palestinian movement. Around 50 people came to the fourth Toulouse screening of the film, which was followed by a lively discussion led by members of the Collectif.

Participants discussed the role and relative inaction of larger French left political parties in calling for Abdallah’s release, noting at the same time increasing levels of commitment and interest in the case from multiple parties. One participant, the brother of a Palestinian prisoner, emphasized in particular the importance of films like “Fedayin” to highlight the lives and resistance of Palestinian prisoners in order to strengthen the solidarity movement. Another participant, a Palestinian refugee from Lebanon, denounced the Lebanese state’s inaction on Abdallah’s case, linking it to the official policies of discrimination targeting Palestinian workers. Others noted that part and parcel of the struggle to free Georges Abdallah is to challenge the French state’s ongoing colonialism and active complicity with the Israeli occupation and the Zionist regime, including political, economic, diplomatic and military cooperation.

Indeed, over 30 organizations in Toulouse have joined the call for the demonstration on 22 October, including: Collectif Palestine Vaincra, Samidoun, Union Juive Française pour la Paix, FSU 31, CGT Haute Garonne, Union Syndicale Solidaires 31, UNEF Toulouse, Parti de Gauche 31, NPA 31, Révolution Permanente 31, Le Poing Levé Toulouse, Secours Rouge Toulouse, Sud Education 31/65, Centre de la Communauté Démocratique Kurde de Toulouse, UCL Toulouse & Alentours, BRIC – Bourrassol Rugby International Club, Solidarité Palestine Toulouse, Action Antifasciste Tolosa, Comité de liberté pour Musa Asoglu Toulouse, Front Anti-Impérialiste Toulouse, Front Populaire (Turquie) Toulouse, ASOMP – Amitié Sahara Occidental Midi-Pyrénées, Groupe Libertad de la Fédération Anarchiste, Attac Toulouse, PCOF 31, Comité 31 du Mouvement de la Paix, DAL 31, LDH Toulouse, Comité Vérité et Justice 31, Union des Etudiant-e-s de Toulouse, Couserans Palestine, Toulouse Anti-CRA

The joint statement follows:

Georges Abdallah is a Lebanese communist and activist for the Palestinian cause. From his youth, he was committed to struggling against the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon in 1978 and 1982. These military invasions caused tens of thousands of civilian victims, such as during the massacre of the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila to Beirut in September 1982. In this context, Georges Abdallah co-founded the Lebanese Revolutionary Armed Fraction (FARL) which claimed responsibility for several operations on French soil, including the executions in 1982 of Yacov Barsimentov and Charles Ray, Mossad and CIA agents respectively.

Arrested in Lyon on 24 October 1984, Georges Abdallah was sentenced to life imprisonment for complicity in murder. But this conviction is affected by many irregularities, in particular direct pressure from Reagan on Mitterrand, and the later revelations of his first lawyer, Jean-Paul Mazurier, that he had been working for the French intelligence services.

Eligible for release under French law since 1999, Georges Abdallah has made eight requests for parole. In 2013, this request was accepted by the sentence enforcement court, subject to his deportation to Lebanon. On this occasion, the United States, through an intervention by Hillary Clinton, once again exerted pressure for Georges Abdallah to be kept behind bars (as revealed by a Wikileaks document). Finally, his release was blocked by a political decision by Manuel Valls, Minister of the Interior at the time, who refused to sign the documents for hi deportation. In January 2022, during a hearing of the administrative court to rule on his request for deportation, the public rapporteur declared “that it is quite obvious that the continued detention [of Georges Abdallah] is subject to considerations of an extra-legal nature”. After, the administrative court refused on 10 February to order his deportation.

Today, he has become one of the longest-held political prisoners in Europe and a notable figure in the Palestinian prisoners’ movement. Alongside them, he regularly engages in hunger strikes or declarations of support for the release of the 4,650 Palestinian political prisoners, of whom more than 740 are in administrative detention (imprisoned without charge or trial), such as French-Palestinian lawyer Salah Hamouri.

On October 24, 2022, Georges Abdallah will have spent 38 years in French prisons. A broad campaign demands his immediate release and his return to his country, Lebanon, on the occasion of a month of international mobilization in October 2022.

In Toulouse, we call for widespread participation in the national demonstration on Saturday October 22, 2022 from 2 p.m. from the train station to the Lannemezan prison (65) where he is being held.

On 8 October, the Collectif Palestine Vaincra organized a Palestine Stand in central Toulouse focusing on the campaign to free Abdallah.

They spoke over the sound system about Georges Abdallah, his life and struggle, and his commitment to the Palestinian cause. While many passrs-by came to show solidarity with Abdallah and participate in a solidarity photo campaign, the stand faced harassment by city police.

Despite the stand being an authorized outdoor political activity, a dozen police arrived and attempted to interrupt the action and eventually forced the organizers to unfold the canopy above the stand, while the protest continued with flags and banners for another 30 minutes. As the Collectif noted, “In order to open a frank discussion with the city authorities, and thus allow us to settle the contentious administrative aspects, we have sent several emails to the relevant department since 18 May. Since then, the town hall has ignored our messages and instead sent the municipal police to us as soon as our activities displease them. This practice, which is a form of political censorship, is unacceptable, and we will not allow ourselves to be intimidated!