Seven activists, convicted in 2018 for facilitating the entry into France of migrants during a demonstration, were released on appeal, Thursday, September 9. The Grenoble appeal court overturned the decision of the Gap correctional court (Hautes-Alpes), which in November 2018 sentenced two French people, an Italian, a Swiss and a Belgian-Swiss to six months in prison. The court also released two other French activists who had received a heavier sentence at first instance – twelve months in prison, four of which closed – because of their judicial past.
One of them, who also appeared in this case for rebellion, was however sentenced to four months in prison. In its judgment, the court held that it was “Not demonstrated” that the demonstration had been organized “With the intention of helping foreigners to enter France illegally”. “In addition, only one irregular entry was revealed that day without it being established that the defendants had any contact with the foreigner concerned”, she added.
“Deep respect” for “the ideas of fraternity”
On April 22, 2018, a demonstration brought together some 200 people – in which refugees had mingled. Left from Claviere, in Italy, the parade had reached Briançon after having forced a roadblock erected by the police at the French border.
During the appeal hearing on May 27, the public prosecutor had requested up to eight months suspended prison sentence against the defendants, after having however demanded to rule out the qualification of “organized gang”. While trusting his “Deep respect” for “The ideas of fraternity” defended, he reproached the activists for having thus facilitated the entry into France of twenty migrants.
“It is an extremely strong signal for all those who campaign in a solidarity and humanitarian framework”, rejoiced Maître Vincent Brengarth, one of the lawyers, welcoming “A very fine affirmation of the independence of the judiciary in a very security political context”. “It’s a bit of a decision that we no longer hoped for after three and a half years of collective battle. She will encourage people to come and help us in Briançon, where the situation is deteriorating ”, also testified Benoît Ducos, one of the released militants.
Reaction to an Identity Generation action
During the hearing before the Grenoble Court of Appeal, the defendants again contested having knowingly helped the migrants to cross the border, stressing that they were unaware that the latter were in the demonstration. At the helm, they had described a participation “Passive and festive” to one “Spontaneous manifestation”, decided in reaction to a demonstration of hostility towards migrants led the day before by the small group Generation Identity, now dissolved.
During their pleadings, and before asking the court for the release of their clients, the defense lawyers argued that the investigation had brought to light only one “Constellation of hypotheses” as to their involvement and the presence of refugees in the demonstration. As during the hearing before the Gap Criminal Court, several hundred supporters of the migrant cause mobilized in front of the Grenoble courthouse, at the call of their support committee.