Published: Sun, July 22, 2018

Macron security officer filmed beating activist is detained

Macron security officer filmed beating activist is detained

Paris investigators on Friday detained for questioning one of President Emmanuel Macron's top security aides who was caught on camera beating a protester in May, a turn of events that is evolving into the biggest political crisis to hit the president since he took office past year.

He was taken into custody yesterday for questioning over the incident at a protest in Paris on May Day.

"The presidency made a decision to start Alexandre Benalla's dismissal procedure after new facts that could constitute misdemeanor were brought to the president's attention", the -lys-e Palace said in a statement Friday.

The video-taker, Bouhafs, said on French radio, "The man on the ground was harmless and begged Benalla to stop".

Despite this, Benalla has been seen this month on the ground with police at several high-profile events, including the return home Monday of France's champion World Cup team, an event attended by hundreds of thousands.

"Clearly, he went beyond this.He was immediately summoned by the president's chief of staff and given a 15-day suspension".

Newspapers on Friday assailed the president's refusal to address the scandal despite repeatedly being questioned by journalists during a visit to southwest France on Thursday.

Lawmakers have launched a parliamentary inquiry into the incident itself, the lenient initial punishment and the failure of the authorities to report Benalla promptly to the judiciary.

Political TV channel Public S-nat on Thursday published a video showing Benalla manhandling one of its journalists at a rally in Caen during Macron's 2017 presidential election campaign.

Despite this Mr Macron faced allegations he was trying to "hush the affair" from Laurent Wauquiez, who is the head of main conservative party the Republicans.

While he faces questions over the assault, prosecutors said on Friday that he is also facing charges of impersonating a police officer.

Officials confirmed that Mr Macron would begin dismissal procedures against one of his top security advisers.

The case has also prompted unflattering accounts of Benalla's behaviour from other officials who have worked with him.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who denounced the "shocking images" in the video, said it was up to courts to decide on the matter.

Alexis Corbière, an MP for the hard-left France Unbowed party, said Benalla "deserves to be punished with a prison sentence, at least a suspended sentence, and with very heavy sanctions".

The upstart centrist elected a year ago had promised an exemplary presidency during his term to break with unending cases of corruption in French politics.

Labour unions hold demonstrations every year on May Day in France, which often lead to police intervention.

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