A French court will deliver its verdict on Thursday against the former bodyguard of President Emmanuel Macron, accused of assaulting two young protesters during an anti-capitalist demonstration in 2018. The incident caused deep embarrassment to Macron, who had sworn to restore the confidence of the French public in public authorities. .
Macron, who made integrity in power the cornerstone of his 2017 election campaign, was forced to fire Alexandre Benalla after a video was released showing him beating a young man and grabbing a young woman by the neck during a demonstration on May 1 in Paris.
The former bouncer, now 30, wore a police helmet, although he was only allowed to attend the protest as an observer.
The presidency was accused of cover-up for failing to report Benalla to police until French daily Le Monde revealed the existence of the video two months after the incident.
The “Benallagate” became the first big test for Macron, who rose to the presidency with the promise of restoring confidence in public authorities.
His government survived two no-confidence votes in parliament, but a Senate commission of inquiry that questioned Macron’s top aides found “major flaws” in the administration’s handling of the case.
Benalla has been charged with assault and unauthorized interference in police matters.
Dressed in a dark suit and a face mask, he made no statement to the dozens of journalists waiting for his arrival at the Paris courthouse.
He denied the charges, saying he acted “out of hand” to help police arrest unruly protesters.
“Mistakes have been made of course, by me of course, but I can take a lot. And I am far from being the only one responsible for this wreck. I am the scapegoat for people in power, ”he wrote in a 2019 book,“ What they don’t want me to say ”.
From confidant to responsibility
Benalla’s friend Vincent Crase, the former security chief of Macron’s centrist party, who was also filmed brutalizing protesters during the demonstration, is also on trial.
Two police officers, accused of illegally providing Benalla with surveillance footage in an attempt to claim that his actions were justified, will also be on the dock.
Benalla started working as a bodyguard for Macron in 2016 during what many saw as his presidential bid, winning over the politician and his wife Brigitte with his boundless energy.
He was promoted to a top security post after Macron’s victory in May 2017, becoming a trusted confidante and right-hand man seen alongside Macron in countless photos.
“He stood out as someone who could solve all practical problems very effectively,” said a former senior campaign official. “He thought of everything, he was our Swiss army knife.
He also obtained benefits usually reserved for senior administration officials, including an apartment near the Élysée Palace and access to the National Assembly and its private gym and library.
After the scandal broke, Benalla also admitted to carrying a handgun during outings with Macron, although he was only allowed to have it inside the Macron party headquarters, where he was. nicknamed “Rambo”.
It is not known, however, how the young man from a working-class district of Évreux, a sleepy town in Normandy, obtained the police helmet he is seen wearing during the May 1 assault.
Benalla also gave Macron a headache after his sacking.
Investigators found he continued to use diplomatic passports for travel to Africa and Israel, where he was trying to set up a consulting business.
He is suspected of using false documents to obtain one of the passports, a charge he has denied.
Benalla will also face a charge of illegally carrying a gun, based on a photo of him at a restaurant that appears to show him with a Glock.
He said it was probably a water gun.
(AXADLETM with AFP)
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