An ex-supporter of France's anti-immigrant National Front has escaped punishment for helping her Iranian lover cross the channel on a rickety boat. Her unusual love story might now be turned into a movie.
Beatrice Huret, 44, who used to vote and even campaign for the anti-immigrant National Front (FN), was found guilty of helping a refugee by the name Mokhtar slip out of France in a boat she had bought for him for 1,000 euros ($1,100).
Prosecutors had requested a one-year prison sentence for Huret having put the migrant's life in danger by illegally assisting him. But the court in the coastal town of Boulogne-sur-Mer ruled that she should not face jail or a fine, presumably on account of acting out of love.
The former nursing aide had fallen in love with Mokhtar - a teacher who had fled Iran and ended up in France. Huret had met Mokhtar while volunteering at the since-demolished "Jungle" migrant camp in nearby Calais.
"I knew I should not do it but I did not imagine this would be the consequence," Huret said prior to the verdict.
"They know I did this out of love," she told the Reuters news agency. "What bothers me the most is to be put in the same bag as others who made people pay for the crossing, people who profited from misery of the refugees."
Following the verdict, Huret told the AFP news agency that she felt "relieved."
A sympathizing prosecutor
Prosecutors had argued that Huret had put the lives of Mokhtar and two other Iranian men in danger by helping them take a boat across the Channel, one of the world's busiest shipping routes. They later were rescued by the British coastguard as their boat began to sink.
"Solidarity is laudable but not at any price and not in any conditions," the prosecutor said.
"In 2016, more than 5,000 migrants died in the Mediterranean in boats [...] We don't want to be collecting corpses from the beaches of Pas-de-Calais," she said, referring to the northern region of France, where Huret and Mokhtar met. Regardless, she also lowered the penalty she sought to one year. Huret's offense could have seen her go behind bars for up to ten years.
'Love at first sight'
Huret says that her life was transformed in February 2015 when she gave a lift to a young Sudanese migrant traveling to the makeshift Jungle camp outside Calais, where thousands of people were waiting to stow away on trucks bound for Britain while living in tents and shacks.
"It was a shock to see all these people wading around in the mud," said Huret, whose husband - a border police officer and also erstwhile FN supporter - had died of cancer in 2010. Huret, started to devote her time to aiding needy people at the camp.
She began volunteering at the so-called Jungle and a year later, in March 2016, met 37-year-old Mokhtar, who was among a group of Iranians who stood out as they had sewed their mouths shut in protest over the demolition of part of the camp in March 2016. The two got to know each other and fell in love.
"We exchanged glances and something immediately clicked," she remembers.
Mokhtar, who is now living in the northern English city of Sheffield, has since received asylum. Huret visits him frequently. She has written a book about their romance, "Calais mon amour," for which several filmmakers are apparently vying to acquire the rights.
ss/rc (Reuters, AFP, EFE)