Sat 25-May-2024

Germany cancels pro-Palestine event, bars entry to Gaza war witness

Friday 12-April-2024

BERLIN, (PIC)

Police in Berlin interrupted and cancelled a pro-Palestine conference soon after it started, hours after one of the main speakers said authorities held him up at the airport and prevented him from entering Germany.

Officers initially halted the Palestine Congress because another speaker was subject to a ban on political activity in Germany, police wrote on the social media platform X on Friday.

Police did not give the name of the speaker, but participants in the congress wrote on X that it was Palestinian researcher Salman Abu Sitta.

Police later wrote on X that they had banned the remainder of the conference, which was being attended by about 250 people and due to last until Sunday.

They said there were risks that the same speaker would be invited to talk again, accusing him of having made “anti-Semitic” statements in the past.

On the Congress’s website, the organizers denounce Israel’s crimes in Gaza, saying: “Together, with the voices of the Palestinian movement and the international community, we will denounce Israeli apartheid and genocide. We accuse Germany of being complicit.”

Berlin police said they had dispatched 930 officers, including reinforcements from other regions of Germany, to secure the event.

One of the main speakers, Ghassan Abu Sittah, a British Palestinian doctor, had earlier been denied entry into Germany to attend the event, he said.

“The German government has forcibly prevented me from entering the country,” Abu Sittah posted on X.

The doctor, who volunteered in Gaza hospitals during the first weeks of Israeli war on Gaza, said he arrived at Berlin airport on Friday morning before being stopped at passport control, where he was held for several hours and then told he had to return to the UK.

There was “pressure from the federal government” to cancel the Palestine Congress, organizer Samour said in press statements, adding that Germany was “actively and illicitly” trying to impede the event.

She also accused Berlin of intentionally delaying the start of the congress, citing technical reasons as a pretext.

“The congress could not be banned. Freedom of assembly protects the congress, which is precisely why the police came up with all sorts of harassment,” she said.

The crowd waiting to enter the hall on Friday chanted slogans including “Viva, Viva Palestine” and “Germany finances, Israel bombs”. Some waved Palestinian flags outside the building.

Protesters and critics have accused authorities of violating democratic freedoms of speech and assembly with the crackdowns.

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