BFM TV / AP
VALENCE, France (AP) – A 28-year-old Frenchman who described himself as a right-wing or far-right “patriot” was sentenced to four months in prison Thursday for slapping President Emmanuel Macron.
Damien Tarel was also banned from holding public office in France and owning guns for five years by Tuesday’s coup, which caught Macron’s left cheek with an audible blow as the French leader waved to a crowd.
During Thursday’s trial, Tarel testified that the attack was impulsive and unplanned, and sparked by anger over the “decline” of France.
He sat up straight and showed no emotion when the court in the city of Valence, in the southeast of the country, convicted him on one charge of violence against a person invested with public authority. He was sentenced to four months in prison and an additional suspended sentence of 14 months was imposed. His girlfriend broke down in tears.
Tarel, who uttered a centuries-old realistic war cry when he struck the president, described himself as a right-wing or far-right “patriot” and a member of the yellow vest economic protest movement that rocked Macron’s presidency. in 2018 and 2019.
Serene and calm, he firmly defended his action and his views on Macron, without providing details of what policies he wants France to change.
Tarel acknowledged hitting the president with a “pretty violent” slap. “When I saw his friendly and lying gaze, I felt disgusted and had a violent reaction,” he told the court. “It was an impulsive reaction … I was surprised by the violence myself.”
While he said he and his friends had considered bringing an egg or cream pie to throw at the president, he said they dropped the idea and insisted the slap was not premeditated.
“I think Emmanuel Macron represents the decline of our country,” he said, without explaining what he was referring to.
He told investigators that he had right or far right political convictions without being a member of a party or group, according to the prosecutor’s office.
The slap drew attention to a variety of far-right groups bubbling under the French political landscape, who are seen as increasingly dangerous despite their few followers.
Macron declined to comment on the trial on Thursday, but insisted that “nothing justifies violence in a democratic society, ever.”
“It is not so important to get slapped when you approach a crowd to greet some people who have been waiting for a long time,” he said in an interview with the BFM-TV station. “We must not make that stupid and violent act more important than it is.”
At the same time, the president added, “we must not trivialize it, because anyone with public authority has the right to respect.”
Another detainee in the uproar that followed the slap, identified by the prosecutor as Arthur C., will be tried at a later date, in 2022, for illegal possession of weapons.
The prosecutor’s office said that in addition to finding weapons, police who searched Arthur C.’s home also found books on the art of war, a copy of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” manifesto, and two flags, one symbolizing the communists and another of the war. Russian Revolution.
Neither Tarel nor Arthur C., also 28, had a police record, the prosecutor said.
While crimes in France often take months or years to come to trial, in this case the authorities used a special emergency procedure to carry out a trial within two days of the slap. Tarel did not object to the procedure.
The videos showed Macron’s attacker slapping the French leader’s left cheek and his bodyguards shoving the man during a quick meet and greet with members of the public, who were behind traffic barriers in the wine town of Tain-l’Hermitage.
The attacker was heard yelling “Montjoie! Saint Denis!” shouted a centuries-old realist, before ending with “A bas la Macronie” or “Down with Macron.”