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French interior minister says did not tell Macron of security aide incident

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French interior minister says did not tell Macron of security aide incident
Photo: AFP
11:33 CEST+02:00
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told lawmakers on Monday that he did not inform Emmanuel Macron about a video showing one of the president's security aides striking a young man during a protest last May.

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told lawmakers on Monday that he did not inform Emmanuel Macron about a video showing one of the president's security aides striking a young man during a protest last May.

Collomb said his staff told him about the video on May 2, the day after Alexandre Benalla beat the man during a police operation to clear protesters from a Paris square.

But Collomb said it was not his role to inform prosecutors about the alleged assault.

"They said they had already informed the police and alerted the president's cabinet, which was appropriate because it's up to the proper hierarchy to take all necessary measures, whether administrative or legal," he told a parliamentary commission.

Since then Collomb said he had not spoken about the alleged assault by Benalla with Macron until French daily Le Monde published a video last Wednesday showing him striking a protester during the May 1 demonstrator.

"I never mentioned during our meetings with the president the Benalla case," he said. 

In the video Benalla is seen wearing a police helmet and armband as he strikes the young man while riot police officers look on.

Collomb said that Benalla was supposed to assist the operation only as an observer, and that he was accompanied by an officer who was supposed to ensure he did not participate.

On Sunday Benalla was charged with assault with an accomplice and impersonating a police officer.

Paris police chief Michel Delpuech is scheduled to appear before the parliamentary panel later Monday.

Parliament revolt

After publishing the first video of the incident last Wednesday, French daily Le Monde posted a second video showing Benalla violently wrestling a young woman to the ground during the scuffles on a square near the Rue Mouffetard, a picturesque Left Bank street.

Just days after the May 1 demonstrations, which were marred this year by anarchists who clashed with police, Macron had tweeted that "everything will be done so that those responsible will be identified and held accountable for their actions".

In a third video, published by the Mediapart investigative news site, police officers are seen kicking and punching a young man even after he has been immobilised on the sidewalk.

The man and woman seen in the videos have come forward and plan to testify, a source close to the inquiry said.

The government has been forced to suspend debate on a constitutional reform bill after a revolt by lawmakers, who have announced investigations by both the National Assembly and Senate.

"If Macron doesn't explain himself the Benalla affair will become the Macron affair," far-right leader Marine Le Pen posted on Twitter.

"Why the devil did he insist on protecting a second-rank employee who should have been kicked out of the Elysee months ago?" rightwing daily Le Figaro asked in an editorial Sunday.

But ruling Republic on the Move (LREM) party spokesman Gabriel Attal defended the president's silence.

If Macron speaks now, "we'd have indignant commentators everywhere saying his comments could influence the inquiry," Attal said.

'Macron defenceless'
 
Adding to the controversy, Le Monde reported Friday that despite his suspension Benalla was allowed this month to move into a palatial mansion along the Seine reserved for Elysee workers.
 
He was also being provided with a car and chauffeur, the paper said.
 
Investigators have searched Benalla's home in the Paris suburb of Issy-Les-Moulineaux, where a city hall official said Benalla was supposed to have married on Saturday.
 
The scandal could hardly have come at a worse time for Macron, whose approval ratings fell to a record low of 39 percent last week, defying analysts' expectations of a post-World Cup bump.
 
"Macron defenceless", the Journal du Dimanche said in a front-page headline on Sunday over a picture of the president and Benalla.

 

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