France: Macron ex-aide Alexandre Benalla handed initial charges over protester attack

An ex-aide to President Macron has been handed multiple charges after video footage showed him beating protesters. Opposition lawmakers want to know why Macron failed to immediately report the incident to authorities.

A judge on Sunday handed preliminary charges to a disgraced former security aide to French President Emmanuel Macron and four others involved in an alleged attack on unarmed protesters in May.

Alexandre Benalla, who had accompanied Macron since before the 2017 presidential election, was charged, among other things, with violence, interfering in the exercise of public office and impersonating a public official.

An official in Macron's Republic on the Move (LREM) party who was next to Benalla when the attack happened, Vincent Crase, was charged with the offense of violence, and three police officers suspected of illegally giving Benalla police footage of the attack to help him clear his name also face relevant charges.

Macron fired Benalla on Friday after French newspaper Le Monde on Wednesday published video footage showing the 26-year-old aide wearing a police helmet while beating a man and dragging a woman during May 1 demonstrations in Paris. Macron's office said Benalla had only been authorized to join the police as an observer.

Crase and Benalla, whose house was raided on Saturday, are now prohibited from possessing a weapon or holding public office.

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Political scandal

Opposition parties have sharply criticized Macron for failing to immediately report the attack and slammed his office's allegedly soft and inconsistent response to the incident.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb is set to face lawmakers this week to answer questions over why the president allowed Benalla to keep his job for months after the attack.

But lawmakers have also questioned why Benalla was seen accompanying Macron during a July 14 national holiday. The president's office said it gave Benalla a two-week suspension and transferred him from the president's security detail to an administrative role after learning about the incident in May.

amp/tj (AFP, AP)

Emmanuel Macron: A man of culture

Honored for his European vision

On May 10, French President Emmanuel Macron received the Charlemagne Prize for European Unity in the German city of Aachen. The prize's board of directors said they chose to honor Macron "in recognition of his vision of a new Europe" and his "decisive stance" against nationalism and isolationism. Since entering office one year ago, Macron has unabashedly pushed for European cohesion and EU reform.

Emmanuel Macron: A man of culture

Charlemagne, father of Europe

The city of Aachen's Charlemagne Prize is named after the important medieval ruler who became the first Holy Roman Emperor (747-814). Under his leadership the Frankish Empire expanded to become a great power, abosrbing parts of present-day Germany. France and Germany are not the only entities to claim him as a forefather; during his lifetime, he was known as "Pater Europae," or "Father of Europe."

Emmanuel Macron: A man of culture

Keynote speech at the Sorbonne

Macron delivered his message to the perfect audience when he spoke to students at the Sorbonne University in Paris in September 2017. In a speech focused on the EU, he emphasized the advantages of Europe's many different languages. Macron, who speaks English fluently, also said he would like to see every European master at least two European languages by the age of 24.

Emmanuel Macron: A man of culture

Supporting cultural education

It was one of Macron's central campaign promises: after turning 18, French youths will receive a one-off payment of €500 ($594) from the French state. Known as a "Culture Pass," the money is supposed to help the teens take advantage of cultural offerings according to their own preferences — whether this means a Spotify subscription, a trip to Barcelona or season tickets to the theater.

Emmanuel Macron: A man of culture

Honored by the literary world

The president was the guest of honor at the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2017, which focused on French culture, literature and language. In his speech, Macron underlined the very positive literary relations between his home nation and Germany. Both countries would benefit from one another's literary output for centuries, he said.

Emmanuel Macron: A man of culture

Mona Lisa on tour?

Leonardo da Vinci's famous oil painting may get lent out to a Louvre branch in Lens, northern France, as part of Macron's push to decentralize French culture. If that actually happens, the Paris Louvre would lose its daily horde of visitors seeking to get a glimpse of the famous mysteriously smiling woman. In addition, simply transporting the painting would cost some €35 million ($41.6 million).

Emmanuel Macron: A man of culture

African cultural heritage

In November 2017 Macron gave a speech in Burkina Faso in which he called for European nations to return cultural heritage pieces that had been obtained during the colonial era. His words unleashed heated debate in Paris and Berlin. Despite his urging, the Berlin Humboldt Forum cultural center (above), set to open in 2019, said it would still include some 75,000 African exhibits in its collection.

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