Thursday, 23 July 2009

Sequels 2

So, Tuesday saw Claudine Louis in court in Foix, accused of offering assistance to a foreigner in an irregular situation (I wrote about her story here a few weeks ago). From its modest beginnings as a local news story, it was gradually taken up by the main news channels as word got around and the level of support for Claudine grew. Comments pages in national newspapers buzzed, generally (though not always, especially - unsurprisingly - in Le Monde) in Claudine's favour.

Nearly a hundred people were outside the courtroom on Tuesday. Before the hearing, the procureur announced a modification to her charges: although she was still being tried for aiding a clandestine, she would not, if found guilty, be fined or imprisoned. The trial, therefore, would go ahead to settle a point of law, not to penalise Claudine who, he accepted, had acted with the best of intentions.

The whole thing lasted for two hours and debate focused primarily on the fact that Obaï is a minor. The defence argued that a minor cannot be considered to be a clandestine or 'in an irregular situation', and that if she had failed to offer help, she could have laid herself open to the charge of 'non-assistance to a person in danger' - which is actually an offence here. The prosecution's argument is that if helping a young immigrant like Obaï is deemed to be legal and above board, it follows that equally no action could be taken against those who traffic children.

The verdict will be given on 8 September, after the arguments have been deliberated by three judges. Whatever the outcome, law will be made.

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