Macron's security aide facing charges as heat rises over assault

Lester Mason
July 22, 2018

The attack by Alexandre Benalla was caught on camera and is sparking the first major political crisis for the French leader who took office previous year. The man was heard begging Benalla to stop.

The four others under investigation are Vincent Crase, who worked for Macron's political party and was with on the day of the attack, as well as three police officers suspected of illegally passing footage of the events to Benalla earlier this week. He and a second man are facing potential charges and are in police custody until Sunday.

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

Benalla was due to get married yesterday in the Parisian suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux, where he owns a house, according to French media.

The video of the May 1 event in Paris, revealed Wednesday by the Le Monde newspaper, shows Benalla in a helmet with police markings.

Surrounded by riot police, he brutally dragged a woman from the crowd and then repeatedly beat a young male protester on the ground.

In response to the outcry sparked by the videos, Macron's office said Benalla was punished in May with a two-week suspension and transferred from security duties to an administrative role. Instead, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb will be questioned by lawmakers this week as Macron's government faces mounting criticism of how it disciplined Benalla.

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

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen tweeted: "If Macron doesn't explain himself, the Benalla affair will become the Macron affair".

The Paris prosecutor's office said it has asked for Benalla and Crase to be prohibited from possessing weapons or working in any public function.

But LREM spokesman Gabriel Attal defended the president's silence, saying that if Macron spoke now, "we'd have indignant commentators everywhere saying his comments could influence the inquiry".

A source close to the inquiry said that Macron's cabinet chief, Patrick Strzoda, had been questioned by investigators on Thursday.

Benalla had initially been suspended for 15 days and allowed to return to work.

Benalla, who is not a police officer, was only supposed to be accompanying the police as an observer.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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