Activist to face trial after unfurling Palestinian flag at Israel basketball game in France

Updated: 28 October 2012

Prosecutors in France have charged an activist after he briefly ran onto the court and unfurled a Palestinian flag during a basketball game played by French and Israeli teams on 25 October.

The game, between Tel Aviv’s Maccabi Electra and the home team in the eastern France city of Chalon, was played under a heavy security presence, with local police taking orders from Israel’s international assassination agency Mossad.

The video shows the activist, who has been identified only as “Layli,” running onto the court before being tackled by security officers. According to Layli, he was roughly treated and hit in the head by security officers, kept in a cell overnight, and then charged and taken before a judge the following day.

An earlier version of this post stated that Layli had been charged with incitement to racial hatred. However, while Layli’s statement below indicates he was questioned by the judge about whether “hate” had motivated his action, the exact charges on which he will be tried have not been made public. Layli said that his action, far from being motivated by “hatred,” was intended to “denounce the policies of a state,” and “to express my support for the Palestinian people.”

He will stand trial on 9 November, and activists in France have called on people to attend what they see as a politically motivated trial.

Judicial crackdown on Palestinian solidarity protests in France

The frequent prosecutions of activists protesting Israeli crimes appear to be part of a concerted effort by French prosecutors to outlaw the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Earlier this year, France’s newly elected president François Hollande said he considered boycotts of Israeli goods, including settlement goods, to be “illegal.” But courts have disagreed. In May, a court in Paris acquitted four activists, ruling that it cannot be deemed “incitement to discrimination” to call for the boycott of a state, as opposed to a specific population group.

Last December, 12 activists were acquitted on charges of “incitement to racial hatred” for staging protests calling on shoppers to boycott Israeli goods in the eastern French city of Mulhouse.

Beaten in the head as police took orders from Israeli agents

Layli described what happened after his flag protest at Friday’s basketball game in a statement posted on the website of Campagne BDS France and translated below by The Electronic Intifada:

I came to the match with a flag, intending to unfurl it in the stands to express my support for the Palestinian people. But the stadium was hemmed in by police in uniform and plainclothes, as well as dogs. Very quickly, other young people who appeared to be going for the same reason, were stopped, searched and surrounded by police who prevented them from the slightest movement.

Seeing that they were immobilized like this, I decided to display the Palestinian flag that I had kept on my person, and I went on the pitch for a few seconds with the flag showing, before being tackled and taken away. A dozen black-clad security agents escorted me in the corridors of the stadium. One was particularly harsh, punching me in the back of the head as they took me to see the person in charge.

Some of them did not speak French among themselves, and I become more informed when one of them stopped to ask the local authorities to check the identity of a journalist who was in the press enclosure. Having learned that he was Palestinian (and a journalist), he demanded that he be removed and taken for questioning. After my release, when I read the report in the local newspaper Le Journal de Saône-et-Loire, I learned of the involvement of the Mossad, from A to Z, in the events of that evening in Chalon. I find this particularly shocking.

I also learned that a woman was arrested for having held a Palestinian flag at the exit of the stadium at the end of the match. She was not released until 6AM the following morning. Once I was put in a cell, I was subjected to various insults by the police officers who called me a “stupid idiot” among other terms of endearment. Then an officer from the judicial police came to tell that that I would be charged with incitment to racial hatred. As I rejected such an accusation, he told me that he’s the one who would decide, not me. A doctor then came to address me in an arrogant manner. I told her to focus on examining me and told her about the blows to my head, not that that seemed to bother her. I was then returned to my cell, where I was with an elderly person who was drunk, and there was only one bed.

After a hearing the following morning, where I had nothing to say, I was told at 1.30PM that I would be brought before a court for an immediate appearance. At 3PM, when it was my turn to appear, the judge asked me a series of questions to determine if hatred motivated my action. I replied that my act, entirely peaceful, was intended to denounce the policies of a state, and that I had Israeli friends who also opposed their country’s colonial policies and acts against the Palestinians.

After a recess, the judge said that he accepted my refusal of an immediate hearing and my request for a delay in my trial in order to prepare my defense. My trial will therefore take place on Friday, 9 November, at 3PM at the superior court in Chalon sur Saône. I thank you for your presence and support in the face of this effort to turn things on their heads and criminalize those who are struggling for the respect of human rights and international law

–Layli

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Comments

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The flag of a country denied its legitimate existence by Israel is deemed to be "incitement to racial hatred"? Quite frankly, if the French court convicts this youth, it would be obscene. The other flag incites many of its followers to racial hatred, as has been recently shown by the apartheid approval ratings in a poll!

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Wow. This is rubbish.

Who arrests someone over unfurling a Palestinian flag?
But if this was someone unfurling an Israeli flag at a game between a Palestinian and French team, nothing would be said.

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It is necessary that the world learn to understand and tolerate the differences. The same right that Israel must fight for their existence have Palestine for its independence. So any demonstration in favour of Arabs and Palestinians is anti-Semitism? Contradiction and intolerance of the Jewish people. We are all equal.

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He didn't get arrested for unfurling a Palestinian flag...he got arrested for running onto the court in the middle of the game.

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An earlier version of this post stated that Layli had been charged with incitement to racial hatred. However, while Layli’s statement below indicates he was questioned by the judge about whether “hate” had motivated his action, the exact charges on which he will be tried have not been made public.

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Could not agree more in how to bring about a real Palestinian justice and that is to use the apartheid tag to it's full, and bring out the same millions of youngsters (well todays youngsters) in ending the slavery and discrimination of the Palestinian people on their own land, peace.

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Layli, you can be proud / you should be proud (my French words did not pass the filter. It involved the plural present subj, 2nd person, of "être" and the word "fier").

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The French government has been to this before. It has tried to make boycotting and calling others to boycott products from the illegal Israeli settlements "inciting to racial hatred" and also "discrimination". Lower courts have so far declared in favour of the activists, but the government is taking the cases to higher courts. The same has happened in Australia.

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Very misleading headline...He was not arrested for unfurling a Palestinian flag; he was arrested for running onto the court in the middle of the game.

He would have been arrested no matter what he was holding.

Also, can you please show your source for claiming that the French police took orders from the Mossad? Thank you.

Ali Abunimah's picture

Thanks for your comment. The headline describes his act, and states accurately that he has been charged. As the post notes, the exact nature of the charge has not been made public. Whether it is related to, or precipitated by, the content of his “speech” — that the flag was a Palestinian flag — remains to be seen. According to Layli’s account, the judge who examined him was clearly interested in his motivations, not simply the fact he ran on to the court. As the post also notes, activists have previously been tried in France for “incitement to racial hatred” — charges clearly connected to the content of their speech. Whether or not he would have been charged no matter what he was holding is difficult to say given the clear attempt to use prosecutions in France specifically to suppress pro-Palestinian solidarity activism and the BDS movement in particular.

However, to avoid any possible confusion or misinterpretation, the headline has been amended to read “Activist to face trial after unfurling Palestinian flag at Israel basketball game in France” with the word “after” replacing the word “for.”

As for the information about French police taking orders from the Mossad, this comes from the Journal de Saône-et-Loire which reported on it openly. An earlier post details what the report said. It is linked in this post, but it appears you didn’t take the time to read it.