Pro-Palestinians in France ask court to overturn demo ban
Police on Thursday complied with a request from France's interior minister to ban Saturday's demonstration called over the ongoing escalation in Palestine-Israel, fearing a repeat of violence seen during a similar protest in 2014.
But on Friday, lawyers for the Paris region's Association of Palestinians told AFP they had lodged a petition for the protection of civil liberties with France's administrative court.
The lawyers said they hoped for a decision later Friday.
"France is the only democracy to ban such a demonstration," said Sefen Guez Guez, one of the lawyers, calling the decision "disproportionate" and "politically motivated".
Paris police chief Didier Lallement said earlier that there was a risk of "a serious disturbance of public order" if the demonstration went ahead, and he also feared "acts against synagogues and Israeli interests".
Lallement also cited the pro-Palestinian demonstrations in July 2014 denouncing an Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, which ended in violence, in his justification of the ban.
Guez Guez responded that there had been "plenty of demonstrations defending the Palestinian cause since 2014 at which there was no problem at all".
Apart from protesting against Israel itself at Saturday's demonstration, organisers have also targeted the French government, which they say is too favourable towards Israel.
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President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, his office said, offering his "condolences for the victims of the rocket fire claimed by Hamas and other terrorist groups".
The statement said Macron urged a return to peace, "and also communicated to his counterpart his concern about the civilian population in Gaza".
Gaza's health minister said 119 Palestinians had been killed, including 31 children, while more than 830 have been wounded.
The toll on the Israeli side is much lower at eight dead, including a six-year-old boy and a soldier.
The protest ban has caused a split among French politicians, with Macron's centre-right party and the right-wing opposition supporting the move, but leftists calling it an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression.
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, a Socialist, said the government had made a "wise" decision.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Thursday told police chiefs elsewhere in France to keep a close eye on planned demonstration and also ban them if necessary, and to bolster police protection of the Jewish community in France.
Many social media users slammed a tweet in which Darmanin discussed his request to the Parisian police.
One wrote: "What do you call a country where the government systematically prohibits protests that displease it?
Darmanin told reporters Friday that protests had also been banned in Marseille in southern France, and Strasbourg in the east.
However, police headquarters for the Marseille region told AFP that the protest could still go ahead, but would have to be stationary.
Police in Lyon and Bordeaux told AFP that there were not restrictions on the rallies.
More Jews live in France than anywhere else in Europe. Worldwide, only Israel and the United States have bigger Jewish populations.
The escalating situation in Palestine-Israel was sparked by Israeli abuses in occupied East Jerusalem: aggression at Al-Aqsa Mosque and the long-running attempt to expel families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood from their homes in favour of Jewish settlers.
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