Just before 7 PM on Wednesday, May 12, Bernard Heilbronn, age 71, President of the Association France-Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), was arrested upon leaving the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, where he had been received by an advisor to the Minister as part of a delegation including members of parliament and representatives of trade unions and organisations.
The story has an ironic twist: the same police officers who had escorted the delegation to the meeting place are the ones who arrested Heilbronn when the interview was over.
We demand his immediate release!
The AFPS had announced a demonstration, in the name of the Collective for a Just and Durable Peace between Palestinians and Israelis, calling for a rally in support of the Palestinian people
The Paris Police Prefecture, in an unprecedented move, had prohibited the rally, although there had never been the slightest problem with the demonstrations that we had always organised in cooperation with the authorities.
The AFPS had announced the prohibition by all possible means. Bertrand Heilbronn and the leaders of participating organisations were on hand to inform those who arrived at the rally site that it had been prohibited, and to guarantee that the events proceeded as well as possible.
In fact, setting aside the restriction on freedom of expression, events did proceed without any problem; there was no disturbance of public order.
What is this power that waits at the exit of a ministry to pick up the President of an organisation devoted to the defense of law and human rights, right after an official meeting, that informs him that he is being taken into custody, and that handcuffs him to a bench upon his arrival at the police station?
The prohibition of this demonstration leads us to conclude — as we already were aware — that freedom of expression and public liberties are in danger in our country. But this arrest forces us to state that a threshold has been crossed.
Tomorrow, this week, and next week, local chapters of the AFPS, alongside their partners, are organising solidarity rallies with the Palestinians of Jerusalem and Gaza who are under the fire of the Israeli occupation army. Dictatorial methods will not prevent us from doing this.
Those who support the Israeli government unconditionally are mistaken if they think such methods can shut us up and intimidate us.
We are on the side of the law and they know it. This is the source of our strength. We demand the immediate release of the President of our association.