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German police shut down a Palestine conference in Berlin. (Photo: via @ProgIntl Tw Page)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

“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.”

German police shut down a Palestine conference in Berlin soon after it began, just hours after one of the event’s main speakers was detained at the airport and subsequently denied entry into the country.

Dozens of police officers stormed the Palestine Congress event on Friday, cutting off the livestream transmission as well as the electricity, with one official reportedly ordering the 250 participants to leave the venue.

At least three people were arrested, according to reports.

“Berlin police just canceled the entire Palestine Congress. I was the only speaker that successfully finished a speech. Salman Abu Sitta was cut off after 1 minute. Our livestream ended and electricity cut off. This is Germany,” journalist Hebh Jamal posted on X.

Nadija Samour, a congress organizer, told the Anadolu news agency before the start of the conference that the German government had actively and illicitly tried to stop or delay the Palestine Congress from happening.

There is “pressure from the federal government” to cancel the congress, Samour said.

She also reportedly 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. Be it fire protection or the landlord’s business license,” she said.

One of the event’s organizers, reportedly a Jewish activist, Udi Ruz, was among those arrested.

‘Risk’ of Anti-Semitism

A statement by the Berlin police on X said that “at the Palestine Congress, a speaker was connected who is banned from political activity. There is a risk that a speaker who has made anti-Semitic or violence-glorifying public statements in the past will be called in repeatedly. Therefore, the meeting was terminated and a ban was also imposed for Saturday and Sunday.”

Dr Ghassan Abu-Sitta, a British-Palestinian surgeon, said he was detained on Friday morning at the airport and “questioned for around 3.5 hours.”

He was later told he would “not be allowed to enter German soil, and that this ban will last the whole of April.”

“And not just that, that if I were to try to link up by Zoom or FaceTime with the conference, even if I was outside Germany, or I were to send a video of my lecture to the conference in Berlin, then that would constitute a breach of German law and that I would endanger myself to having a fine or even up to a year of prison.”

Dr. Abu Sitta said his passport was then taken away from him and only returned to him “as I was boarding the plane.”

The surgeon said he was to share his evidence “of the 43 days that I had seen in the hospitals in Gaza, working in both Shifa and al-Ahli hospital.”

Samour said “Sittah is the dean of the University of Glasgow. I can’t imagine that he’s a dangerous person or a person who incites violence. Quite the opposite.”

Theme: ‘We Accuse’

Anadolu reported that according to the organizers, the conference was supposed to take a critical look at the German military support for Israel’s war in Gaza.

The congress had called for “an immediate cease-fire as well immediate withdrawal of the Israeli army.”

Organizers had also reportedly urged an “immediate cessation of all military, diplomatic, and economic support for Israel by the German state as well as a comprehensive military embargo” on Tel Aviv.

There had been intense pressure from pro-Israeli politicians in recent days to ban the event, as hundreds of police surrounded the congress venue in Berlin’s Tempelhof district, the report said.

Numerous pro-Palestinian groups and mainly leftist initiatives invited people to the three-day international meeting under the motto “We accuse,” said Anadolu.

ICJ Case

Nicaragua has brought a legal case against Germany before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Berlin is accused of “facilitating the commission of genocide” against Palestinians in Gaza by continuing to supply weapons to Israel.

According to the case, Germany has violated its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention and other norms of general international law by participating in “the ongoing plausible genocide and serious breaches of international humanitarian law and other peremptory norms of general international law occurring in the Gaza Strip”.

Dr Abu Sitta said on X: “Silencing a witness to genocide before the ICJ adds to Germany’s complicity in the ongoing massacre.”

A protest was held on Friday evening outside the German embassy in London following his detention and deportation from Berlin.

“What could have just been a local event of a conference on Palestine has now become the focus of the world’s attention,” Dr Abu Sitta said at the protest.

“Accomplices in a crime try to hide the evidence, and silence the witnesses,” the surgeon said. “They will not silence us, they will never silence us…Those of us who were in Gaza, in the hospitals, Germany and its other accomplices in this genocidal war, want us to unsee the children that they have killed.”

Although the US has traditionally been Israel’s largest arms supplier, Germany and the UK have also reportedly been providing significant support to Israel for many years.

Anadolu reported that according to the latest data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the US supplied 70.2% of Israel’s conventional arms procurement from 2011 to 2020. Germany followed with 23.9%, and Italy with 5.9%.

(PC, Anadolu)

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