A French farmer has gone on trial in Nice, charged with illegally transporting migrants across the French-Italian border, within France, and with helping them to find residence in France.
37-year old Cédric Herrou was supported by a large crowd of activists and well-wishers at his court appearance. Banners were waved reading “I am Cédric” and “crime of solidarity”.
A local newspaper lauded him as man of the year.
Speaking before the hearing, Herrou said that any law against helping those in need should be changed. He believed that the true purpose of the law should be to make society function and enable people to live in harmony.
Fellow residents of the Roya Valley in the Alps have been resisting anti-immigration sentiment by offering aid to African migrants, particularly children, who have entered Europe illegally. Most of those they have helped have been from Eritrea and Sudan.
Lucia Palermo, an Italian artist from Ventimiglia, said that she was concerned about the discrepancy between the acceptance of assistance given to Europeans and the condemnation of help provided to migrants from outside Europe, including refugees.
The prosecutor in this case has asked for an eight-month suspended sentence, with driving restrictions. Under French law, Herrou could have faced up to five years in prison and a 30,000 euro fine.
8 mois de prison avec sursis requis contre Cédric Herrou, jugé pour avoir aidé des migrants https://t.co/PF2WnJyLvF via
tinez16</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AFP?src=hash">#AFP</a> <a href="https://t.co/Y692eKpQE1">pic.twitter.com/Y692eKpQE1</a></p>— Agence France-Presse (afpfr) January 4, 2017
The farmer remains unbowed, vowing to continue his work until the state takes responsibility for the plight of migrants.
A decision is expected on February 10.