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French farmer on trial for helping migrants into Europe

The activist, who has become a local hero to some, faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

French farmer Cedric Herrou (C) leaves the courthouse of Nice, southeastern France, on January 4, 2017, after his trial for allegedly assisting migrants to enter and remain illegally in France. Picture: AFP

LONDON – A French farmer has gone on trial for helping African migrants cross the border from Italy, and giving them shelter.

The activist, who has become a local hero to some, has gone on trial for aiding illegal immigrants and faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Cedric Herrou is one of three people to appear before courts in southern France for helping African migrants flee into Europe.

His olive farms straddle a valley on the French Italian border near a route used by migrants trying to avoid border controls.

Three months ago he and others occupied a nearby disused holiday village and opened it up for a group of migrants.

Police shut it down three days later and arrested him.

Two months earlier he had been arrested for trying to smuggle eight Eritrean migrants into France by car.

That case was dropped on humanitarian grounds.

(Edited by Neo Koza)