PARIS (AP) – A former security assistant to French President Emmanuel Macron, who sparked controversy by assaulting a protester at …
PARIS (AP) – A former security assistant to French President Emmanuel Macron, who sparked controversy by assaulting a protester at a May 1 march in 2018, was on Friday convicted of unlawful violence and other offenses and sentenced to one year in prison.
A court in Paris found Alexandre Benalla, 30, guilty of deliberate violence in the 2018 incident in the capital, where Macron was not present. He was also convicted of illegally carrying a gun during a Macron campaign in 2017 and illegally using diplomatic passports after leaving the presidency.
Benalla received a prison sentence of three years – of which two years was suspended – and is allowed to spend the remaining 12 months in his mother’s home, provided he wears an electronic badge.
Benalla’s actions, and the way Macron’s office reacted to them, had caused the French leader’s first political crisis.
In withering comments, court judge Isabelle Prevost-Desprez said Benalla had “shown a sense of omnipotence and impunity … cast doubt on the leadership of the Elysee and damaged the image of the presidency.”
At the heart of the controversy was Benalla’s sinister role at the President’s Elysee Palace, where a police security contingent is accused of protecting the president. There was intense media coverage, and a parliamentary television survey put top Elysee officials, usually invisible to the public, at the center.
Criticism centered on why the aide had used violence against the protester in the May 1 confrontation while police stood and watched. Benalla was reportedly at the demonstration as an observer.
“It was war,” Benalla told investigators, insisting that as an observer he did not intend to act violently, but intervened because it was his civic duty.
“You throw shame at the job as a police officer,” Prevost-Desprez said Friday, addressing Benalla in court.
In late 2018, the French press revealed that Benalla had two diplomatic passports used for travel to African countries after being fired from his job at the presidential palace.
Benalla did not speak during the sentencing, and he did not answer questions from journalists outside afterwards.
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