By Damon Mitchell • 15 May 2020 • 8:14
A COURT in France has dropped all charges against an olive farmer who helped migrants illegally enter the country, marking the end of a groundbreaking case that defined ‘crimes of solidarity.’
Cédric Herrou helped about 200 migrants cross the border from Italy into France and set up a camp for them. For his troubles, he was given a four-month suspended sentence in August 2017.
He was also convicted of sheltering about 50 Eritreans in a disused railway building.
France’s constitutional council later said Herrou’s actions were not a crime under the ‘principle of fraternity’ as enshrined in France’s motto: Liberté, égalité, fraternité. The council, which evaluates the validity of French laws, ruled that people cannot be prosecuted for ‘crimes of solidarity.’
In December 2018, France’s court of final appeal overturned Herrou’s conviction and sent the case back to the appeals court in Lyon, which on Wednesday ruled all the charges were void.
“Reason and the law have triumphed,” said Sabrina Goldman, a lawyer on the case. “Why focus on someone who did nothing but help? How can what he did be regarded as anything other than a humanitarian act?”
Amnesty International said the ruling would have implications throughout Europe for the criminalisation of “acts of solidarity.”
“French law should now be amended to ensure only people smuggling, which entails a material benefit, is an offence, and not humanitarian assistance,” said Amnesty’s Rym Khadhraoui.
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