Police ban pro-Palestinian congress in Berlin

Police ban pro-Palestinian congress in Berlin

BERLIN (AFP) : Police interrupted and canceled a controversial pro-Palestinian conference in Berlin less than an hour after it started on Friday, citing concerns about anti-Semitic statements.

Officers initially halted the congress because one of the speakers was subject to a ban on political activity in Germany, police wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

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 then later wrote on X that they had banned the remainder of the conference, which was due to last until Sunday.

“There is a risk that a speaker who has already made anti-Semitic or violence-glorifying public statements in the past will be invited to speak again,” they said.

The conference had been heavily criticized before it began and did not disclose its location until Friday morning due to security concerns.

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

On the congress website, the organizers denounce “Israeli apartheid and genocide” and accuse Germany of “being complicit.”

Kai Wegner, the mayor of Berlin, said on X he found it “intolerable” that the congress was taking place in Berlin.

“Berlin does not tolerate anti-Semitism, hatred and incitement against Jews,” he wrote.

The organizers on Friday wrote in a Telegram post that Ghassan Abu Sittah, a Palestinian doctor specializing in plastic and reconstructive surgery, had been denied entry into Germany to attend the conference.

The outbreak of the war in Gaza has roiled Germany, where Berlin’s staunch backing for Israel has prompted protests that pro-Palestinian voices are being marginalized.

The conflict erupted after an unprecedented attack on Israel by Hamas gunmen on October 7 in which around 1,160 people were killed, mostly civilians, according to Israeli official figures.

Israel afterwards vowed to eradicate Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. More than 33,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed as a result, according to the Gaza health ministry.