International politics

Senior Aide To President Macron Under Investigation For Beating Protesters

French prosecutors are investigating Alexandre Benalla, a senior presidential aide for attacking protesters in Paris. Benalla is an assistant to President Emmanuel Macron’s chief of staff. He was filmed tareting a woman and a man during May Day protests while wearing a police visor.

A student activist caught Benalla on video and was said to have left the scene after being challenged on camera. He was identified from the video by French newspaper Le Monde.

The incident took place on May 1st, where about a 100 people gathered in a popular tourist spot at Place de la Contrescarpe in the fifth district of Paris.

In the original video, posted on social media by 21-year-old Taha Bouhafs, shows a man in a police helmet who is not in uniform joining CRS riot police after clashes erupted. The man grabs a woman by the neck, charging her down the street, before both disappear off-camera. Shortly afterwards he returns to the scene, attacking another protester, who had been carried a short distance by police before being left alone on the ground.

The man in the helmet, identified as Mr Benalla, is seen in the video grabbing the young protester around the neck, hitting him in the head and apparently stamping on his stomach when he falls to the ground.

According to a presidential spokesman, Mr Benalla had been given permission to attend the disturbance as an observer on his day off.

On Thursday, Paris prosecutors announced that they were opening a preliminary investigation into the alleged assault with possible charges to include violence by a public official, pretending to be a policeman and the illegal use of police insignia.

Speaking to French radio on Thursday, activist Taha Bouhafs said that protesters had been “quietly settled” on the square before he recorded his video.
“The man on the ground was harmless and begged Benalla to stop,” Mr Bouhafs said. “There is no explanation for this outburst of violence.”

On the day of the protests, Mr Macron took to Twitter, vowing that those responsible for violence would be “identified and held accountable for their actions”. The tweet has received renewed attention in light of the accusations against his employee.

Formerly an employee of a private security firm, Mr Benalla worked with other French politicians in the past – including leading Socialist Martine Aubry and Mr Macron’s predecessor in the Elysée, François Hollande. Before joining the presidential staff, Mr Benalla had the role of security during Macron’s election campaign in 2017. Currently his main duty is to arrange security for the president’s engagements.

Opposition MPs have called for far stronger action to be melted against the presidential official. Socialist Olivier Faure complained of double standards, arguing that there was one form of justice for regular people, and another for the presidency.

Also,Alexis Corbière of the far-left France Unbowed party called for Mr Benallon’s sacking, and said criminal charges should follow if the allegations were confirmed.

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