French open judicial probe into beating by Macron aide
PARIS – French authorities opened a judicial investigation Sunday into the shocking beating of a protester in May by one of President Emmanuel Macron’s top security aides.
The attack by Alexandre Benalla was caught on camera and is sparking the first major political crisis for the French leader who took office last year.
Paris prosecutor’s office Sunday said Benalla and four others, who are being placed under judicial control, have gone before a judge where charges could soon be brought.
The four others include Vincent Crase, who worked for Macron’s party and was by Benalla’s side 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.
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 drags a woman from a demonstration and then repeatedly beats a young male protester on the ground. The man is heard begging him to stop. Another man in civilian clothing pulled the young man to the ground.
Police, who had hauled the man from the crowd before Benalla took over, didn’t intervene. Benalla then left the scene.
Paris prosecutor’s office added that Benalla, who handled Macron’s security during the 2017 presidential campaign, and Crase are now prohibited to possess a weapon and to work in a public function.
Benalla was fired by the presidential palace on Friday and his house was raided by investigators on Saturday.
Macron has remained silent on the topic. 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 uproar over Benalla’s earlier punishment — a two-week suspension and a change in responsibilities — upended regular business in parliament. Lawmakers were aghast that Benalla still had an office in the presidential palace 2 1/2 months after the beating, and that he was not immediately reported to judicial authorities.
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