Paris: A former security aide to French President Emmanuel Macron has been found guilty of assaulting protesters and posing as a police officer during a protest in 2018, in a case that caused the administration’s first major scandal and led to intense criticism of Macron’s governing style.
Alexandre Benalla, 30, was sentenced by a court in Paris to three years in prison, one of them under house arrest with electronic monitoring, and the two others suspended, meaning he will not serve them unless he commits a new crime within a given time frame and a court orders that the complete sentence be served.
Benalla was also fined €500 ($780) and barred from working as a civil servant for five years.
A lawyer for Benalla told the BFMTV news channel that he was alluring the conviction.
Benalla had been responsible for security during Macron’s 2017 presidential campaign and became an aide to his deputy chief of staff after the election. He was part of the French leader’s inner course of action, accompanying him on official visits, biking trips, tennis matches and other outings.
But in July 2018, Benalla was identified by the newspaper Le Monde in a video that showed him wearing a police helmet as he grabbed, dragged and hit a man during an unruly labour protest in Paris on May 1 that year.
The report, and the presidency’s fumbling response, caused a firestorm of criticism that fed months of media coverage and parliamentary inquiries, seriously testing Macron for the first time since his election. It was quickly revealed that the presidency had known about the beating for months but had disciplined Benalla with simply a slap on the wrist.
Coming on the heels of other controversies involving Macron — including influence-peddling accusations against a close aide, a dust-up over an expensive new dinner service, and his public scolding of a student — the case gave his political opponents ammunition to portray the President as out of touch and his administration as opaque.
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