Cédric Herrou, who helped around 200 migrants to cross the border between Italy and the south of France, was sentenced to a four-month suspended prison sentence in August 2017.
He had brought destitute migrants home and set up a camp for them. He was also found guilty of accommodating around 50 Eritreans in an abandoned railway building.
France’s Constitutional Council later declared that Herrou’s actions were not a crime under the “principle of brotherhood” as enshrined in France’s motto: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. The council, which assesses the validity of French laws, ruled that people could not be prosecuted for “crimes of solidarity”.
In December 2018, the Court of Cassation – the French Court of Cassation – overturned Herrou’s conviction and referred the case to the Lyon city’s appeals court, which said on Wednesday that all charges were void.
“Reason and the law have prevailed,” said Sabrina Goldman, a lawyer in this case. “Why focus on someone who has only helped?” How can it be considered anything other than a humanitarian act? “
Amnesty International has said that the move would have an impact across Europe on the criminalization of “acts of solidarity”.
“Cédric Herrou did nothing wrong, he just showed compassion for those abandoned in dire conditions by European states,” said Rym Khadhraoui of Amnesty in a statement. “While it is a relief that Cédric Herrou’s ordeal is now over, he should never have been charged in the first place. “
French law should now be amended to ensure that only human trafficking, which has a material benefit, is an offense, and not humanitarian assistance, said Khadhraoui.