"Crime of solidarity": Annulment of the sentence of a solidarity activist at the French-Italian border


A French activist who was prosecuted for transporting a man presumed to be in an irregular immigration situation has had his sentence overturned, but a fresh hearing at the Court of Appeal awaits.

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Press release published by Anafé on 20 October 2020. Originally published here. Translated with permission by Statewatch.

On October 14, 2020, the Court of Cassation once again sanctioned the Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence in a new trial for the "crime of solidarity".

Loïc Le Dall, who was exonerated by the Nice Criminal Court in 2018, was sentenced on April 1, 2019 by the Aix-en-Provence Court of Appeals to a suspended fine of 3,000 euros for "aiding the entry of a foreigner in an irregular situation in France".

The Court of Appeal, once again eager to punish an activist working in solidarity with people in exile at the French-Italian border, had refused to examine the procedural grounds raised by Le Dall's lawyer, who then filed a further appeal. At the beginning of September 2020, the Court of Cassation considered the case. It overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal and referred the case back to the said court, in a new composition, for a new examination of the case.

"I am very pleased that the Court of Cassation has issued a decision in this regard. However, the substance of the debate has not been decided and a future hearing will without doubt allow me to relax definitively, as my objective has always been to defend the rights of people on the French-Italian border," said Loïc Le Dall upon the announcement of the Court of Cassation's decision.

"The Court of Cassation sanctioned the Court of Appeal for not having ruled on the grounds of nullity of procedure, even though they were regularly raised in limine litis (before any defense on the merits). In so doing, the Court emphasizes the office of the judge, even when he must rule on offences with a strong political dimension. This decision is nevertheless frustrating because the substance of what is called the "crime of solidarity" or the freedom to help others has not been raised despite a favorable opinion from the Advocate General. The remand hearing will therefore be a particularly important issue in the coming months for all solidarity activists. I remain hopeful that, in its new composition, the Court of Appeal will change its position by drawing the consequences of the jurisprudential developments that have taken place since the decision of the Constitutional Council enshrining the principle of fraternity," says Zia Oloumi, attorney for Loïc Le Dall.

For Anafé and Emmaüs France, who are committed to supporting human rights defenders prosecuted for the "crime of solidarity", the upcoming debate before the Court of Appeals of Aix-en-Provence in the context of the trial of Loïc Le Dall will undoubtedly help to put an end to the prosecution for aiding the entry into France of solidarity activists.

At a time when the European Commission is considering, in the European pact on migration, to put an end to the prosecution of activists during rescues at sea, our associations are asking that French law be amended so that people in solidarity in France are no longer worried, prosecuted and convicted for their actions of fraternity towards people in migration.

The defense of the rights of foreigners at the borders and of solidarity, whether at sea, in the mountains or on the plains, must no longer be repressed.

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On January 18, 2018, Loïc Le Dall was stopped during an identity check at the La Turbie tollbooth in the direction Italy-France. On board his vehicle was an Ethiopian national. They were both arrested. Loïc Le Dall admitted having helped this person in his migratory journey for humanitarian reasons. A few days before, a man had been found dead on the roof of the train from Ventimiglia - he had been electrocuted. The Ethiopian national was immediately sent back to Italy.

At the end of his police custody, Loïc Le Dall was brought before the criminal court of Nice for an immediate hearing, which was postponed to March 14. During this period, he was forbidden to leave the Alpes-Maritimes department and had to report to the police station once a week.

On March 14, 2018, the criminal court of Nice acquitted Loïc Le Dall, notably due to the absence of a hearing of the Ethiopian national in the criminal proceedings and the absence of any procedure relating to the administrative situation of this person on French territory. The court had indeed considered that "guilt cannot be retained on the sole basis of self-incrimination, the offence prosecuted does not appear to be sufficiently characterized in the absence of an investigation into the administrative situation of the foreigner concerned in the proceedings".

The public prosecutor's office then appealed the decision. The appeal hearing was held on March 20, 2019 at the Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence. On April 1, 2019, the Aix-en-Provence Court of Appeals sentenced Loïc Le Dall to a suspended fine of 3,000 euros for "aiding the entry of a foreigner into France". Loïc Le Dall then appealed to the Supreme Court. The hearing before the Court of Cassation was held on September 2, 2020.

Loïc Le Dall is an observer at the internal land borders and has been a member of Anafé since January 2018. He joined the Emmaus movement and has been president of Emmaus Roya since August 2019.

Press release published by Anafé on 20 October 2020. Originally published here. Translated with permission by Statewatch.

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