Outrage as France bans pro-Palestine demonstrations

The decision to ban the demonstrations was justified due to violence last weekend, the interior minister said

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The French government on Friday provoked outrage by banning protests against Israeli action in Palestine, becoming the first country in the world to do so.

This week, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Paris to demonstrate against the rising death toll in the latest conflict between Gaza militants and the Israeli army.

However, the decision to ban the demonstrations was justified, according to Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, as protests last weekend had led to violence.

I cannot accept a repetition [of these acts of violence] and I cannot take the risk of seeing French citizens, whatever their religious affiliations, exposed to violence,” Cazeneuve told reporters, the website of TV channel France 24 reported on Friday.

Cazeneuve fears there might be a repeat of the fights between “ultra” Jewish vigilantes and pro-Palestinians which occurred after a demonstration last Sunday.

Referring to the main Paris march, Cazeneuve said: “I consider that the conditions are not right to guarantee security.”

The minister added that there was a “threat to public order,” while opponents said he was “criminalizing” popular support of the Palestinian people.

Michele Sibony, of the Jewish Union for Peace, said: “By outlawing free speech by pro-Palestinian demonstrators, France puts itself in a unique position in the world and Europe,” the UK newspaper the Daily Mail reported.

‘Beyond belief’

Sylvie Perrot, another pro-Palestine Paris-based activist, commented: ‘Fascist states stop people demonstrating against wars – it is beyond belief that French Socialists are following their example.”

Youssef Boussoumah, of the Party of the Indigenous of the Republic (PIR) said: “France is criminalizing any show of solidarity with the Palestinian people... This is an absolute outrage.”

Late on Friday, lawyers for a number of groups hoping to campaign on behalf of Palestine lodged an appeal against the ban in a Paris court.

Violators of the ban face a year in prison and a $20,000 fine, while if they hide the faces to conceal their identity the sentence can go up to three years and a $60,000 fine.

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