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Farmer and activist Cedric Herrou
Farmer and activist Cedric Herrou

This is the face of civil disobedience, circa 2017. Cédric Herrou, a 37-year-old farmer from southeastern France, appeared in court yesterday in Nice for having illegally helped undocumented African migrants cross the Italian-French border. "I do it because it has to be done," Le Monde quotes him as saying.


An olive and egg farmer and pro-migrant activist, Herrou was arrested in October for setting up the squatting of a disused holiday village belonging to France's state-owned railway company SNCF for a group of more than 50 migrants from Eritrea. He had already been arrested two months before that for attempting to smuggle Eritreans by car from Italy, but that case was eventually dropped. To the presiding judge's surprise yesterday, the arrests didn't stop him. "Even if you condemn me, the problem will go on," he said in court. Herrou also explained that several migrants, including three minors, were currently staying at his farm and that about 30 other minors were staying with local residents.


The prosecutor Jean-Michel Prêtre denounced what he perceived as a "PR strategy" and suggested Herrou "had wanted the trial" to push forward his political agenda, Le Figaronotes. "It's not up to the justice system to change the law," Prêtre said. "It's not up to the justice system to give diplomatic lessons to this or that country." Under French law, Herrou faces up to five years in prison and 30,000 euros ($31,500) in fines, but the prosecutor called for an eight-month suspended sentence, with driving restrictions.


The decision isn't expected until Feb. 10, but the bearded farmer already gave an idea of how he would take whatever sanction comes his way: Before entering the courtroom yesterday, he told some 300 supporters gathered outside, "What I'm doing is not a sacrifice, it is an honor." Is this Herrou's real lesson? When the world's problems show up at your doorstep, you can send a message back out to the world — even if your own country doesn't have the answers.

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Geopolitics

It's Not About Mussolini, Searching For The Real Giorgia Meloni

As the right-wing coalition tops Italian elections, far-right leader of the Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, is set to become Italy's next prime minister. Both her autobiography and the just concluded campaign help fill in the holes in someone whose roots are in Italy's post-fascist political parties.

Giorgia Meloni at a political rally in Palermo on Sept. 20.

Alessandro Calvi

-Analysis-

ROME — After Sunday’s national election results, Italy is set to have its first ever woman prime minister. But Giorgia Meloni has been drawing extra attention both inside and outside of the country because of her ideology, not her gender.

Her far-right pedigree in a country that invented fascism a century ago has had commentators rummaging through the past of Meloni and her colleagues in the Brothers of Italy party in search of references to Benito Mussolini.

But even as her victory speech spoke of uniting the country, it is far more useful to listen to what she herself has said since entering politics to understand the vision the 45-year-old lifelong politician has for Italy’s future.

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