A former security aide to French President Emmanuel Macron who sparked a political crisis when he was identified as having beaten up a protester during a May 1, 2018 protest has been tried on a dozen charges, including voluntary violence.
PARIS – A former security aide to French President Emmanuel Macron who sparked a political crisis when he was identified as having beaten up a protester during a May 1, 2018 demonstration was on trial on Monday for a dozen leaders. accusation, including willful violence, illegal wearing of badged police and carrying a weapon.
Alexandre Benalla, 30, faces up to seven years in prison and 100,000 euros ($ 118,000) in fines if found guilty.
Benalla’s actions, and the way Macron’s office clumsily handled them, sparked the French leader’s first major presidential crisis and discredited his efforts to clean up politics.
At the heart of the controversy was Benalla’s murky role at the Elysee presidential palace – where a police security contingent is tasked with protecting the president – and whether Macron’s presidency had a hidden deal with Benalla. Intense media coverage and a televised parliamentary inquiry that brought senior Elysee officials, normally invisible to the public, to the fore turned the Benalla affair into a political soap opera.
Questions that have been raised include why the aide played the role of a police officer in the May Day confrontation as the real police stood watching. Benalla is said to have attended the demonstration as an observer. Among other mysteries, Benalla held two diplomatic passports, used to travel to African countries, after being fired from his ill-defined job at the presidential palace.
Further investigation was opened when a photo showed Benalla with a gun to his hip as he served as Macron’s security assistant during his presidential campaign in 2017. This is for illegally carrying a gun fire that Benalla risks a sentence of seven years.
Speaking, Benalla said he was “surprised” by his arrest, because “I felt like I had done something positive for society (that day) by arresting offenders. And I was taken into custody.
Benalla is on trial along with three other people, including two police officers who shared CCTV footage showing him beating a protester. Whistleblowing is a violation of professional secrets.
Hundreds of violent demonstrators had invaded the traditional march of May 1 by the unions when Benalla took action in a small square on the left bank.
“It was war,” Benalla told investigators, insisting that as an observer he did not intend to act violently but intervened as it was his duty as a citizen.
Benalla was first suspended from his job for 15 days before returning and directing security for the France football team’s victory parade on Avenue des Champs-Elysées on Bastille Day after having won the 2018 world championship. He was investigated later in July and, amid public outcry, was fired from his post at the presidential palace.