Two French environmental activists charged for taking down portraits of President Emmanuel Macron in town halls were released by a court in Lyon, which found that their action was legitimate given the "serious, current and imminent danger" of climate change.
The Prosecutor's Office had demanded the two activists — Fanny Delahalle and Pierre Goinvic — be fined €500 each for the theft.
But the correctional court of Lyon ordered "the release (of the two defendants) for the benefits of the state and for legitimate motive".
The ruling states that "given the State's lack of respect for goals perceived as minimal in a vital area, the way citizens express themselves in a democratic country cannot be reduced to the ballot box only but must extend to new forms of participation."
It adds that taking down the President's portrait in town halls "must be interpreted as the necessary substitute for the impracticable dialogue between the President of the Republic and the people."
The Prosecutor's Office has announced that it will appeal the court's decision.
Delahalle and Goinvic are among dozens of activists who over the past few months took down 128 official portraits of Macron in town halls across the country.
The non-violent action was to protest what they say is Macron's lack of action towards tackling the climate crisis.
Alternatiba ANV, the environmental NGO which supported their court case, described the ruling as "historic."
Goinvic welcomed the ruling on Facebook but stressed that "this release and recognition of the state of necessity are only a big step forward, a breach, a crack that we will have to deepen" with more protest.
Delahalle, meanwhile, saluted the judge's "fantastic courage" and vowed to "get released again" in appeals' court.
Eight activists and a filmmaker went on trial last week in Paris for taking part in the protest with similar trials also taking place in Strasbourg.