Mon, 27 Sep 2021

President Emmanuel Macron's former bodyguard goes on trial on Monday for assaulting two people during a 2018 protest while posing as a police officer. The incident was the first major scandal of Macron's presidency.

Alexandre Benalla - a former nightclub bouncer who had a senior security role in Macron's team - was fired after a video emerged showing him striking a young man and grabbing a young woman by the neck at a May Day protest in 2018.

He was wearing a police helmet, although he had only been given leave to accompany security forces as an observer.

Benalla faces charges of assault, unauthorised interference in police matters and use of police insignia.

He claims he was helping police arrest the unruly protesters.

The assault came to light only after Le Monde newspaper revealed the video in July 2018.

Benallagate

Officials denied allegations of a cover-up but "Benallagate" ballooned into the first major test for Macron, who swept to the presidency a year before with a promise of restoring an "exemplary republic".

His government survived two no-confidence votes in parliament, but a Senate investigative panel that questioned key Macron aides found "major flaws" in the administration's handling of the affair.

Macron's former bodyguard released from jail

French PM tells Senate not to meddle after Benalla report

Also on trial is Benalla's friend Vincent Crase, the former security head of Macron's centrist party, who was also filmed manhandling protesters at the march.

Two police officers, accused of illegally providing Benalla with surveillance footage to justify his actions, will also be in the dock.

Handgun

Benalla started working as a bodyguard for Macron in 2016.

He was promoted to a senior security role after Macron's May 2017 victory, becoming a trusted confidant and right-hand man.

After the scandal broke, Benalla also admitted to carrying a handgun during outings with Macron, even though he was only authorised to have it within Macron's party headquarters, where he was nicknamed "Rambo".

He faces a charge of illegally carrying a gun, based on a picture of him at a restaurant that appears to show him with a Glock.

He claimed it was a water gun.

Fake documents

Benalla also caused headaches for Macron after his dismissal.

Investigators found that he continued to use diplomatic passports for trips to Africa and Israel, where he was trying to build up a consulting business.

Macron's former bodyguard delivers new blow

He is suspected of using faked documents to obtain one of the passports, a charge he has denied.

(with AFP)

Originally published on RFI

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