Emmanuel Macron Security Official Filmed Hitting Protester
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - One of Emmanuel Macron’s top security officers is at the centre of a potentially damaging scandal for the French president after being filmed hitting a protester.
Le Monde newspaper published a video on Wednesday showing Alexandre Benalla hitting and then stamping on a young man while wearing a police visor during a demonstration in central Paris on May 1.
Benalla, who is not a police officer and previously worked as bodyguard, had been given permission to observe police operations during a day off for the May 1 public holiday, Macron’s office said, The Guardian reported.
The presidential palace added that Benalla had been suspended for two weeks after the incident came to light and had been transferred out of his role as security organizer for Macron’s trips.
“This sanction was to punish unacceptable behavior and it was a final warning before being sacked,” said the president’s spokesman, Bruni Roger-Petit.
Prosecutors in Paris opened an investigation on Thursday into possible charges of violence by a public official, of pretending to be a police officer and of the illegal use of police insignia.
Benalla was a popular and ever-present member of Macron’s campaign team, usually found several steps behind the then candidate, and he transferred to the presidential staff in May 2017.
Opposition MPs immediately suggested there had been a cover-up and questioned why the incident had not been referred to the police when it came to light in May.
The Socialist party leader, Olivier Faure, said there was a double standard in how Benalla had been treated compared with any ordinary French citizen.
Alexis Corbière, an MP for the hard-left France Unbowed party, said Benalla “deserves to be punished with a prison sentence, at least a suspended sentence, and with very heavy sanctions.”
Supporters of Macron claimed the punishment handed down to Benalla – suspension without pay for two weeks and a transfer to an administrative job – was appropriate.
“Someone was found to have unacceptable behavior and there was a sanction,” the minister for social cohesion, Julien Denormandie, said on France Inter on Thursday, without naming Benalla. “It was immediate … meaning a suspension and a job change.”
Richard Ferrand, a senior MP from Macron’s party and a top figure in the campaign team, said: “It was not a close aide, it’s someone who was responsible for security of the president during the election campaign and then joined the Élysée.”
Benalla was suspended from May 4-19.