The French government has been accused of “criminalising” pro-Palestinian activists, by backing a ban on protests against Israeli violence on the Gaza Strip.
Thousands of protesters were expected to march in Paris over the weekend and call for an end to the violence in Gaza, as it emerged on Friday that the Israeli military had killed 296 Palestinians in the renewed conflict – including a baby, four children and a 70-year-old woman since Thursday. One Israeli civilian and one IDF soldier have died in the 11-day conflict.
Citing a “threat to public order”, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve backed the police ban on the widely-advertised mass demonstrations, after members of the Jewish Defence League (LDJ) and pro-Palestinian groups clashed last Sunday.
He also advised other police prefects to consider banning planned rallies on a “case by case” basis.
Videos from rallies last week reportedly showed armed LDJ vigilantes attempting to tempt pro-Palestinian demonstrators into fights.
“I consider that the conditions are not right to guarantee security,” Mr Cazeneuve said regarding the main Paris march, according to the Mail Online.
On Friday evening, lawyers for a number of groups responded by lodging an appeal against the ban in a Paris court.
Attending an illegal demonstration is punishable by a year in prison, and a €15,000 fine – a penalty which rises to a three year sentence and a €45,000 fine if a demonstrator covers their face to avoid being identified.
Meanwhile, publicising an illegal demonstration on social media can lead to a year-long prison sentence, and a €15,000 fine. This increases to seven years and a 100,000 fine if the post sparks violence.
Youssef Boussoumah, of the Party of the Indigenous of the Republic (PIR), told the website: “France is criminalising any show of solidarity with the Palestinian people."
“This is an absolute outrage, it is a continuation of attempts to muzzle the Palestinian people and to get them and their supporters in France to surrender absolutely to Israel's oppression,” he added.
False reports following last week’s protests claimed that pro-Palestinian demonstrators had damaged synagogues during the rally, but it later emerged none of the religious buildings had been targeted.
A judicial inquiry is to be launched into the false allegations.
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