- Title: French volunteer charged for transporting migrants appears in court
- Date: 4th January 2017
- Summary: NICE, FRANCE (JANUARY 4, 2017) (REUTERS) ***WARNING CONTAINS FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY*** MEDITERRANEAN SEA COURT OF JUSTICE BUILDING FARMER AND ACCUSED CEDRIC HERROU SPEAKING TO SUPPORTERS IN FRONT OF COURT VARIOUS OF HERROU SPEAKING TO JOURNALISTS (SOUNDBITE) (French) VARIOUS OF FARMER AND ACCUSED CEDRIC HERROU SAYING: "It's not because we are going to put Cedric Herrou in prison, that Cedric Herrou will be punished, that the problem is going to end. The problem is not Cedric Herrou. The problem is people who are here, suffering and with no claims. The problem is there. If one has to bribe me with the threat and say 'Cedric, shut up, go home, do your work, and don't deal with politics' - well... no. Because democracy obliges us to get out of our couches and to go to the street and to go see people who are beside us, even if we don't know them." SUPPORTER HOLDING A SIGN READING (French): "Crime of solidarity" / SIGN READING (French): "Them - this is us." HERROU BEING INTERVIEWED CROWD GATHERED OUTSIDE COURT OF JUSTICE (SOUNDBITE) (French) VARIOUS OF FARMER AND ACCUSED CEDRIC HERROU SAYING: "There are rights to be respected. They have to respect the law like I do. I subjected myself to illegality because these people are pushing me towards illegality in order to protect the rights of these children that I've taken across (the border), of these families that I've taken across, I had to put myself in illegality. And if I have to continue, I will continue." SUPPORTER HOLDING SIGN READING (French): "Helping his neighbour is not an offence." HERROU CLIMBING STAIRS OF COURT OF JUSTICE, CROWD CHEERING HIM ON CROWD CHANTING (French): "So-so-solidarity" / HERROU BEING INTERVIEWED HERROU WALKING INSIDE COURT OF JUSTICE, PHOTOGRAPHERS FILMING MICROPHONE INSIDE COURTROOM / CODE OF JUSTICE CROWD OUTSIDE COURT OF JUSTICE (SOUNDBITE) (French) NICE RESIDENT AYMERIC CHAPUIS SAYING: "Because we are in complicated times in Nice, we experienced the attacks and in response to these attacks, there is a movement of solidarity towards a population, migrants. So in response to a wrong we are doing right. And the fact that the justice system decides to recall him for a decision that might lead him to prison, we are a bit stunned in fact. We are in a state of astonishment and incomprehension." PEOPLE WALKING IN STREET (SOUNDBITE) (French) NICE RESIDENT BERNADETTE BARELLI, SAYING: "Obviously, the law is the law so it is very complicated because we can consider that he made a humanitarian gesture in fact. So we are a bit torn between the two principles. It's awful I think, because we can't condemn him I think."
- Embargoed: 19th January 2017 16:50
- Keywords: migrants volunteer trial court borders Europe Italy France Cedric Herrou
- Location: NICE / BREIL-SUR-ROYA, NEAR ITALIAN/FRENCH BORDER / TOURETTES-SUR-LOUP, FRANCE AND VENITIMIGLIA, ITALY
- City: NICE / BREIL-SUR-ROYA, NEAR ITALIAN/FRENCH BORDER / TOURETTES-SUR-LOUP, FRANCE AND VENITIMIGLIA, ITALY
- Country: France
- Topics: Asylum/Immigration/Refugees,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0015XO0QX3
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The trial of a French farmer charged with helping clandestine migrants began in Nice on Wednesday (January 4).
Herrou may face five years in prison and a 30,000 euro fine if found guilty of the charge of aiding the unauthorised entry, transit and stay of illegal migrants.
Defiant, he defended his actions and said sending him to prison would do nothing to address the influx of migrants across Europe.
"I subjected myself to illegality because these people are pushing me towards illegality in order to protect the rights of these children that I've taken across (the border), of these families that I've taken across, I had to put myself in illegality. And if I have to continue, I will continue," Herrou said.
Around 300 supporters gathered in front of the Palais de Justice in Nice, decrying the case against Herrou.
"The law is the law so it is very complicated because we can consider that he made a humanitarian gesture in fact. So we are a bit torn between the two principles. It's awful I think, because we can't condemn him I think," Nice resident Bernadette Barelli said.
Local newspaper Nice Matin named Herrou "Azureen of the year," a title reserved for the region's most accomplished individuals.
In a French valley surrounded by Italian territory, the 37-year-old egg farmer and a team of volunteers helped transport migrants from his home in Breil-sur-Roya, across the Italian border and back into France, taking routes typically neglected by border police.
Growing numbers of migrants had been gathering at the frontier between Italy's Ventimiglia and France's Menton, hoping to travel on to countries such as Britain and Germany.
He was first arrested in August 2016 for accompanying eight Eritreans, and had been released on a humanitarian immunity clause.
The same clause did not apply when he was arrested again in October, when the Nice prosecutor said his aiding of migrants then was not a response to immediate danger.
Herrou said he had helped migrants on a purely voluntary basis, and accepted no money or anything in return from the migrants, and that he especially tried to help the minors among them.
Once over the border, the migrants were transported to a house in Tourettes-sur-Loup, where they were met with warm drinks and cakes by the association "Housing and Citizenship" as they waited for the onward part of their journey.
The migrants were then transported on to a train station in Les Arcs, where they were left to continue their onward journeys on their own. The group of migrants filmed by Reuters in October successfully boarded a train headed for Paris, travelling on to various final destinations.
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