French court acquits activists accused of helping migrants cross Alps

A French court on Thursday overturned the convictions of seven people accused of illegally helping a group of migrants enter France by accompanying them over an Alpine pass from Italy.

French court acquits activists accused of helping migrants cross Alps
French gendarmes controlling the entrance to the valley of Nevache on April 23rd, 2018 in Briancon, a route leading to the Col de l'Echelle, a passage used by migrants arriving from Italy to France. Photo: JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT / AFP.

The activists, dubbed the “Briançon Seven” after the southeastern mountain town that took in the migrants, insisted they had merely joined a solidarity march at Montgenevre Pass in April 2018.

They were among some 200 people escorting a few dozen migrants who skirted a police roadblock as they crossed into France.

The march was intended to protest a blockade at another pass the day before by the far-right group Génération Identitaire (Identity Generation) to try to keep migrants out of France.

Two of the activists had been given four-month prison terms in December 2018, while the others, including an Italian, a Swiss and one dual Swiss-Belgian national, received suspended sentences.

The court said there was no evidence “of intention to help foreigners enter the country illegally.”

One of the activists, Benoit Ducos, hailed the ruling, saying: “It’s a decision we had given up hoping for after three and a half years of collective battle.”

“It’s going to encourage people to come help us in Briançon, where the situation is getting worse,” he said.

Appeal courts have overturned similar convictions since a Constitutional Court ruling in 2018 against prosecuting so-called “crimes of solidarity”.

Directly facilitating illegal border crossings remains illegal, however.

This year, the government dissolved Génération Identitaire, saying its activities including so-called surveillance operations to “defend Europe”, were a risk to public order.

The migrant crisis prompted calls for more humanitarian assistance for people fleeing war or poverty.

But it also fuelled support for populist parties across Europe, which warned the continent was being overwhelmed by the arrivals.

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France charges teen over ‘imminent terror attack’ plot

French authorities have charged an 18-year-old man on suspicion of planning an imminent terror attack with a knife in the name of Islamic State (IS) jihadists, a judicial source said on Wednesday.

France charges teen over 'imminent terror attack' plot

Initial investigations indicated that he planned to carry out a terror attack “in the name of IS, to which he had pledged allegiance,” said the source, who asked not to be named, adding that the man had been detained in the Drome region of southeast France and charged in Paris.

The source added that the man had been detained in the Drome region of southeast France and charged in Paris.

The man, from a Muslim family, had adopted extremist views and was considered a threat, sparking France’s anti-terror prosecutors office (PNAT) to open an investigation on May 19, a source close to the case said.

Police arrested him on Friday and a video of him swearing allegiance to IS was found in his possession.

The source did not say whom he was planning to target in the attack or in which location.

France saw a wave of jihadist attacks from 2015 that left hundreds dead and pushed the country to its highest level of security alert.

There has been no repeat of a mass atrocity in the last years, but there have been several deadly attacks carried out by lone individuals

More to follow