France: Appeal trial for a group of activists showing solidarity with migrant people against far right ‘border defenders’ begins

On May 27, hundreds of people gathered outside the court in Grenoble, France to show their support to “Briançon 7”: a group of individuals who are appealing their conviction for “facilitating the irregular entry of foreign nationals” into France in December 2018.

The story of ‘Briançon 7’ begins in the spring of 2018. On April 22, the seven human rights defenders gathered along the French-Italian border, near the commune of Briançon. The group included four French nationals, Jean-Luc Jalmain, Benoit Ducos, Lisa Malapert and Briançon resident Mathieu Burellier, and three foreign nationals, Italian Eleonora Laterza, Swiss Bastian Stauffer and Swiss-Belgian Theo Buckmaster.

The group’s aim was to show solidarity with people-on-the-move making the dangerous crossing from Italy into France. The seven participated in a peaceful demonstration, in which they marched from the ski town of Clavière in Italy towards France, crossing the border into the French town of Briançon.

Travelling with them were some twenty people-on-the-move, whom they escorted along the treacherous mountain pass. The activists were responding to a blockade set up at a nearby mountain pass by several dozen far-right activists from Generation Identitaire (Generation Identity), who were trying to prevent the entry of the people-on-the-move into France.

“The march was organised as a peaceful response to the actions of anti-migrant groups and the militarisation of the Franco-Italian border, which has pushed migrants to attempt to enter France through mountain passes without suitable equipment or the requisite knowledge, thus putting them at risk,” Front Line Defenders wrote following the activists’ convictions.

The group of seven were arrested after the demonstration and convicted in the Criminal Court of Gap on December 13, 2018 of “facilitating the irregular entry of foreign nationals”. Mathieu Burellier and Jean-Luc Jalmain were sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment, eight of which were suspended, due to previous convictions. The five others received a suspended sentence of six months.

Front Line Defenders said the ruling “criminalises their [the activists’] peaceful and legitimate work for the protection of migrants rights and endangers the work of migrants rights defenders in France.”

Now, two and a half years after the conviction, the appeal trial for the Briançon 7 is finally underway in the French city of Grenoble.

Amnesty International wrote in a press release this week that the organization “considers that the conviction of the Briançon 7 for facilitation of irregular entry must be quashed, as it contravenes the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

Additionally, a petition has been launched to draw attention to the criminalization of solidarity. (You can sign the petition here.)

The petition reads, in part:

In the appeal trial, the prosecution demands 3 to 8 months suspended prison sentences plus a 30,000 euro fine for one of the defendants. The verdict is expected for September 2021. More information about the case and updates on the appeal trial can be found here.

In related news, after a lengthy legal battle, a group of four people that were charged with human trafficking for sheltering people on the move in their homes were finally acquitted by the Bruxelles court of appeals.


Source: Are You Syrious.

Image: Borderline-Europe Twitter account.