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POLITICS

Four months in jail for Frenchman who slapped Macron across the face

A French court on Thursday sentenced a man who slapped French President Emmanuel Macron across the face this week to a prison term of 18 months, 14 of which were suspended.

Four months in jail for Frenchman who slapped Macron across the face
Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron greeting crowds later in the day. Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP

Damien Tarel, a 28-year-old medieval history enthusiast, has been in custody since the assault on Tuesday which a prosecutor at the hearing called “absolutely unacceptable” and “an act of deliberate violence”.

Tarel was placed under arrest following the verdict from the court in the southern city of Valence and will spend the night in jail as he begins his sentence.

In its verdict, the court followed a recommendation from prosecutors for an 18-month sentence, but said he should serve only four, after a fast-track hearing.

Tarel had risked a maximum three-year jail sentence and a fine of €45,000.

Under French law, prison sentences of less than two years can be converted into non-custodial punishment.

The long-haired history buff and board games enthusiast told investigators that he “acted instinctively and without thinking” after waiting for Macron outside a school in the village of Tain-l’Hermitage.

In court, he expressed sympathy for the anti-government “yellow vest” movement and said that he and two friends had considered throwing an egg or a cream pie at the head of state during his visit to the Drome region, according to the BFM news channel.

“Macron represents the decline of our country,” he told the court.

Tarel, unemployed and living on benefits, said he had been annoyed by Macron’s decision to come to greet him – “an electoral tactic that I didn’t appreciate”, BFM reported.

In a video of the incident, a smiling Macron can be seen striding towards a crowd of onlookers including Tarel who are being kept behind a barrier.

Macron has shrugged off the assault, calling it an “isolated event”, and he has vowed to continue meeting voters despite concerns for his personal security.

Asked about it again during an interview on Thursday with BFM, he called it a “stupid, violent act” and suggested it was a consequence of the poisonous atmosphere found on social media.

“You get used to the hatred on social media that becomes normalised,” he said. “And then when you’re face-to-face with someone, you think it’s the same thing. That’s unacceptable.”

Leaders across the political spectrum have united in condemning the slap, with many seeing it as a symptom of the fraught political climate and declining standards of public debate just weeks from regional elections and 10 months from presidential polls.

Member comments

  1. “he had been annoyed by Macron’s decision to come to greet him”

    How dare a politician actually go and meet the people eh? So if Macron hadn’t done that, then someone else would have been annoyed at him ignoring everyone. You can never win really…

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POLITICS

French military bans Russians from chateau over Ukraine war

The French military has banned Russian nationals from visiting the Chateau de Vincennes, a medieval fortress, tourist attraction and military site on the edge of Paris, due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, officials told AFP.

French military bans Russians from chateau over Ukraine war

Once the residence of French kings and among Europe’s best-preserved monuments of its kind, the castle is for the most part open to the public, including for tours, concerts, theatre plays and other events.

But although best-known as a tourist attraction it is also technically a military site, housing part of the French armed forces’ historical archives, to which access is restricted.

The mounted Garde republicaine – a division of the French military – are also partially based at the chateaux.

It is therefore covered by a French ban on Russian nationals entering army territory that was issued after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Each year some 150,000 people visit the chateau, paying €9.50 per adult admission.

But on July 28th, two Russian women were refused access.

“A guard at the metal detector asked to see my passport,” said one of the women, 31, who works as a journalist and has been in France for five months, having left Russia “because of the war”.

On inspecting the document, the guard informed her she couldn’t pass, the woman, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

Another guard also denied her entry and gave as the reason “because you are Russian”, she said, adding she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

Contacted by AFP, the defence ministry confirmed late Monday that it had, indeed, “restricted access to military installations to Russian nationals” because of the invasion.

But after media coverage and social media comment, the ministry contacted AFP on Tuesday to say that the guards had in fact “indiscriminately applied a rule established in February concerning all military installations”.

“This rule cannot be applied in the same way for strategic sites and for sites accessible to the public, such as museums,” a spokesman said.

The ministry said security staff would now be informed of the distinction “to avoid any further incidents of this kind”.

Russian journalists could, however, apply for an exemption, a ministry official added.

The majority of France’s most popular tourist sites have no military function and would not be affected by the ban. 

Since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine in February, France has taken in some 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, government figures show.

About 73,500 Russian immigrants lived in France in 2021, according to the national statistics office Insee.

There has been debate within the European Union about whether further limits should be placed on Russians visiting the bloc for tourism or personal reasons.

Russia’s neighbour Finland last week issued a plan to limit tourist visas  for Russians but also emphasised the need for an EU-level decision on the matter.

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