This article has been updated since initial publication.
Paris police arrested the head of a Palestine advocacy organization after banning a rally in solidarity with Palestinians who are under intensifying attack by Israel.Bertrand Heilbronn was arrested Wednesday evening as he left the foreign ministry in Paris, according to Association France-Palestine Solidarité, AFPS, the group of which he is president.
The 71-year-old had been at a meeting with officials as part of a civil society delegation.
Elsa Faucillon, a member of parliament, posted a video of Heilbronn surrounded by police as he left the foreign ministry. She and several other lawmakers had attended the meeting:AFPS had earlier joined a call 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 organized in cooperation with the authorities,” AFPS said in a statement.
The group said it cooperated with the decision to ban the rally, with Heilbronn and the leaders of other participating groups 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.”
Nonetheless, according to AFPS, Heilbronn was arrested as he left the foreign ministry and was taken to a police station where he was handcuffed to a bench.
Late Wednesday night, AFPS tweeted that Heilbronn had “finally been released.”“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,” AFPS said.
“But this arrest forces us to state that a threshold has been crossed.”
AFPS affirmed that its chapters across France would be joining with other solidarity groups for rallies across the country planned in coming days.
“Dictatorial methods will not prevent us from doing this,” the group added.On Thursday, AFPS said said that the interior ministry “will have to explain itself” over Heilbronn’s arrest.
It added that the French government must “put an end to these repeated and scandalous attacks on liberty of expression and demonstration.”
France, despite its pretensions of being a bastion of free speech, is one of the most repressive countries in the world against supporters of Palestinian rights.
Its goverment is also in the midst of a racist and Islamophobic campaign of incitement and repression against French Muslims.
Authorities even threaten to continue criminally prosecuting citizens who call for a boycott of Israel’s apartheid regime.
Such prosecutions are in flagrant violation of basic human rights, according to a ruling last year by the European Court of Human Rights.
Update: Blanket ban on protestsOn Thursday afternoon, France’s interior minister Gérald Darmanin tweeted that he had ordered a total ban on demonstrations planned for Saturday in Paris related to the “recent tensions in the Middle East.”
Darmanin claimed that “Serious disturbances in public order were noted in 2014,” referring to protests against Israel’s attack on Gaza that year. He added that “orders have been given to be firm and vigilant.”