Letter From Brussels

A Hostage of the French State

Julie Robert

At the beginning of APRIL, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah had his birthday. But once again, like the Iast 29 birthdays, he did not have the chance to celebrate. Georges Ibrahim Abdallah is 62 years old, and is detained in France since October 1984. Since 1999, he is 'releasable', but he is still imprisoned and his last release request has been rejected on 4 April, 2013. Who is Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, and why is the French State doing its best to prevent its liberation?

Georges Ibrahim Abdallah was born in Kobayath, a town located in the north of Lebanon, on 2 April 1951. He studied in Achrafieh, and graduated in 1970. At that time, the situation in Lebanon was one of structural crisis. And this crisis was becoming more and more insurmountable. To stave off changes, and to counteract the radicalisation of the masses, the bourgeoisie pushed toward a civil war. At the same time, at the beginning of the seventies, the Palestinian revolutionary reality reached the foreground in Lebanon. Just before the civil war of 1975, the crisis of the system changed radically the nature of the stakes. The 'misery belts' around Beirut, the cities and villages in the South of the country, and the refugees camps around the main cities became the local, regional and international stakes of the revolutionary movement. This reality of struggle, of resistance and of sacrifice has built Georges Ibrahim Abdallah's political consciousness. It also shaped his revolutionary commitment. Quite naturally, he chose resistance in the face of mass murders committed by the Lebanese bourgeois political outfits and their American, French and Israeli allies. Georges Ibrahim Abdallah started his political career in the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (PNSS) before joining the Palestinian resistance and becoming a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Between 1978 and 1982, Israel perpetrated numerous acts of aggression against Lebanon through air strikes, naval bombardments and attacks led by national mercenaries. Georges Ibrahim Abdallah was injured during the resistance movement in 1978 against Israeli invasion. In 1982, the Israeli army invaded Lebanon for the second time. 25,000 people were killed and 45,000 injured during this war. Everyone has heard of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. These two Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut have been attacked by a Lebanese Christian militia acting in the name of the Israeli army. Between 1000 and 5000 unarmed civilians were killed in cold blood while the Israeli soldiers were watching just outside the camps. The Western powers backed all these actions. As a reaction, the Lebanese and Arab fighters chose to strike back. This was the moment when the Lebanese armed revolutionary factions decided to go into action in Europe. Their actions were targeted and precise: assassination attempt against Christian Edison Chapman, second in charge at the American embassy in France (1981); murder of Colonel Charles Ray, military attache at the American embassy in France (1982); murder of Yakov Barsimantov, second secretary at the Israeli embassy in France, but also in charge of the Mossad in France (1982), etc. Georges Ibrahim Abdallah was arrested in Lyon (South of France) on 24 October 1984. He had been followed by a group of people belonging to the Mossad and some of its Lebanese agents. Their closed surveillance led to the arrest. The French authorities detained him because Georges Ibrahim Abdallah was carrying 'real-false identity papers'; a passport legally delivered but issued with a fake name by the Algerian authorities. Immediately after his arrest, the French State promised to the Algerian authorities to quickly release the prisoner. It even sent the chief of one of its domestic intelligence agency—DTS Directorate of Territorial Surveillance—to Algeria to inform them of the upcoming release of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah. The message he had to deliver was the following: 'the release of Ibrahim Abdallah is conceivable in the framework of the French laws'. But the French authorities did not respect their promise. Georges Ibrahim Abdallah was brought before the court on 10 July 1986 and he was accused of possession of arms and explosives. At that time, the French government was pressurized by the United States into keeping Ibrahim Abdallah behind bars. President Ronald Reagan himself took up the subject of the trial during a meeting with his French counterpart, Francois Mitterand. There have been several direct interferences coming from the United States and Israel to prevent the French authorities from releasing the Lebanese prisoner. The United States even took civil action in the trial! Finally, he was condemned to four years of imprisonment.

Almost at the same time as the trial, several attacks took place in Paris. Thirteen people were killed and more than 300 injured in these random attacks. The Committee of Solidarity with Arab and Middle East Political Prisoners—CSPPA—claimed responsibility for them. It demanded the release of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, among other political prisoners. Afterwards, it became apparent that these attacks had been committed by a network backed by Iran to get back at France for its support to Iraq in its war against Iran. Today, everybody knows that "the French secret services knew where these attacks were coming from (even if they didn't know who precisely was behind them). But they were discussing and negotiating with the silent partners of the CSPPA. To cover up the negotiations, the French secret services accused Ibrahim Abdallah's brothers of the attacks. It is at that moment of time and in that context that the Directorate of Territorial Surveillance made a 'miraculous discovery'. On 2 April 1985, on the basis of documents seized in Georges Ibrahim Abdallah's apartment in Lyon, it ordered the search of a flat in Paris. There, the police found 23 kilos of explosives, arms and ammunition. It was a few days before he would have got released on parole. This slow in coming 'discovery' led to the second trial of Ibrahim Abdailah. It started on 1 March 1987 and he was accused of 'conspiracy in terrorist acts' (meaning the founding of the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions and the planning of its operations). For this specific trial, the French authorities had constituted a special anti-terror court that was empowered to give a verdict on the basis of information given by the secret services even if there were no proofs or witnesses. Absolutely no one had presented him/herself as a witness of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah's involvement in the activities he was accused of. He was sentenced to life imprisonment even when the public prosecutor asked for ten years. This sentence was given with a minimum recommendation of twelve years. With this verdict and the slanderous campaign against Ibrahim Abdallah's brothers, the French government got what it wanted: misinform the French people shocked by the random attacks in Paris, satisfy the Americans and the Zionists and show France as a country able to fight terrorism.

In prison, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah continued to defend the cause of the people. Among other things, he adhered to the 19 June 1999 platform which gathered in a 'struggle community' a hundred communist, revolutionary, anarchist, anti-fascist and anti-imperialist prisoners and took part in the several hunger strikes in solidarity with the revolutionary prisoners in Turkey. In 2002, he was behind a solidarity action with the Palestinian women detained in Neve Tirza (Israel). These women were on hunger strike to denounce the daily humiliations they were subjected to in the Zionist jails in August that year, along with most of the prisoners detained in the same building, he refused the meal served by the prison authorities. Following this initiative and as a punishment, he was kept in isolation for several months.

His minimum sentence came to an end in 1999. This means that since then, his release does not require any particular plea for clemency. It can become effective by a mere administrative order published by the Ministry of Justice. The French Penal Code makes possible the liberation after fifteen years of detention. Nevertheless, at this moment in time, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah is still behind bars. Since 1999, he has introduced eight applications to be released. All of them have been rejected on various grounds. One of the most recurring arguments advanced by the different jurisdictions is that "Georges Ibrahim Abdallah is a threat to the internal security of France" and that 'his anti-Israeli and anti-imperialist convictions remain intact after all these years'. The United States also continues to pressurise France. In November last year, a special court in Paris decided to order the liberation of the Lebanese prisoner. The liberation was conditioned by a deportation decree that had to be delivered by the Home Minister. Immediately after the publication of the information in the media, the United States expressed their complete opposition to the release of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah. They said that he was still a potential threat. A few weeks later, 21 Congressmen (democrats and republicans) representing the states of Virginia, New York, Florida, California, Rhode-Island, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, Massachusetts and Illinois wrote a letter to the French ambassador in which they forcefully insisted that the French authorities must not release Georges Ibrahim Abdallah and that "Abdallah must remain locked-up for the rest of his life". A few weeks ago, the Home Minister finally decided not to sign any deportation decree.

All along his detention, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah has been persecuted by the authorities. Two instances are revealing.
1.    In December 2009, he was summoned to appear before a court because he had refused, in 2008, to submit to a DNA sample. During the trial, he reminded the judge that he had already given his DNA, and that he was sure that the Directorate of Territorial Surveillance, the CIA and the Mossad had also probably registered the results of his biological samples. But the judge said that the data could not be found in the database of the French justice department and sentenced Georges Ibrahim Abdallah to three months in prison. Three months when he has been sentenced to life imprisonment!
2.   Twice, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah was sent during a few weeks to the Centre National d'Observation (CNO). Since 2008, each prisoner asking to be released on parole is sent to the CNO. There, he is examined by a committee of experts which evaluates the risk of releasing the prisoner on parole. In prison since long before 2008, Georges Abdallah should not have been targeted by this new law. But in his case, the French justice decided to apply the new law retrospectively. So he spent six weeks in the centre, twice. During his time there, he has been examined by various psychologists and psychiatrists, who finally wrote a review. Both the times, this review was given to the committee which gave a negative judgement, preventing his release. The main justification was that 'the prisoner has very strong political convictions which are intact'. So, for these people, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah's fight is an illness, and he is still not healed, even after all these years behind bars.

As mentioned above, his last request has been rejected, meaning that he will have to wait one more year before introducing a new application for release. But Georges Abdallah continues his fight on a daily basis. A few weeks ago, he joined the hunger strike of Spanish prisoners in France. This hunger strike was launched by the Basque prisoners to denounce the French prison policies towards the prisoners who were ill (one of their imprisoned comrades had died a few days before of a cancer) and the general conditions of the prisoners.

In the dictionary, one can read: Hostage: a person given or held as security for the fulfilment of certain conditions, promises. A hostage is always taken by force, and the hostage-taker does not care for any law. In accordance with this definition, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah is a hostage of the French State. Since nearly thirty years now, the French authorities have changed laws, have adopted new ones and used old ones with only one aim: keeping Georges Ibrahim Abdallah behind bars. Why? Because he's a man of conviction, a man who lives to struggle for the oppressed people, and who lives for the Palestinian cause. The French state may have thought that while in prison, his revolutionary opinions would lessen. In fact, it's the contrary.

Vol. 46, No. 5, Aug 11-17, 2013

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