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French Constitutional Court sides with farmer who helps migrants

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By Mark Armstrong
French farmer Cedric Herrou
French farmer Cedric Herrou

France's constitutional court has ruled that the principle of fraternity protects a farmer from prosecution for aiding migrants to enter the country illegally.

Cedric Herrou challenged his conviction for smuggling migrants across the border from Italy to France. In 2017 he was fined 3000 euros for providing assistance to migrants in the Roya Valley that straddles the frontier between the two countries.

"This clarification was absolutely necessary because it was holding up the situation, in particular, the case of Cedric Hérrou, but also other cases," explained Herrou's lawyer, Zia Oloumi. "From now on what the court is saying is "help who you want". The Constitutional Council is saying you can't help migrants cross the border but everything else, their stay here and their movement within France, there's no difficulty with simplifies the humanitarian action of those who show solidarity and I think that more people will now decide to help migrants."

At the time of his conviction, Cedric Herrou was unapologetic and vowed to carry on helping migrants. It was after he appealed his sentence unsuccessfully that Herrou filed his suit at the Constitutional Court. His legal team welcomed the decision, calling it an immense victory.