A 28-year-old man on trial for slapping French President Emmanuel Macron testified on Thursday June 10, that the attack was impulsive and unplanned, and prompted by anger at France’s â€śdecline.â€ť
Damien Tarel faces possible jail time and a fine if found guilty of assaulting a public official at the special emergency trial in the southeastern city of Valence.
Tarel was immediately arrested after the incident which occurred as the French leader was greeting a crowd in the region on Tuesday.
The man acknowledged hitting the president with a â€śrather violentâ€ť slap. â€śWhen I saw his friendly, lying look, I felt disgust, and I had a violent reaction,” he told the court. “It was an impulsive reaction… I was surprised myself by the violence.â€ť
While he said he and his friends had considered bringing an egg or a cream pie to throw at the president, he said they dropped the idea â€” and insisted that the slap wasn’t premeditated.
â€śI think that Emmanuel Macron represents the decline of our country,â€ť he said, without explaining what he meant.
Tarel told the court that he supported the yellow vest economic protest movement that shook Macronâ€™s presidency in 2019. He told investigators that he held right- or ultra-right political convictions without being a member of a party or group, according to the prosecutorâ€™s office.
The charge of violence against a person invested with public authority is punishable by up to 3 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros ($54,000).
Macron wouldn’t comment Thursday on the trial, but insisted that â€śnothing justifies violence in a democratic society, never.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s not such a big deal to get a slap when you go toward a crowd to say hello to some people who were waiting for a long time,â€ť he said in an interview with broadcaster BFM-TV. â€śWe must not make that stupid and violent act more important than it is.â€ť
At the same time, the president added, â€śwe must not make it banal, because anyone with public authority is entitled to respect.â€ť
Another man arrested in the ruckus that followed the slap, identified by the prosecutor as Arthur C., will be judged at a later date, in 2022, for illegal possession of weapons.
The prosecutorâ€™s office said as well as finding weapons, police who searched the home of Arthur C. also found books on the art of war, a copy of Adolf Hitlerâ€™s manifesto â€śMein Kampf,â€ť and two flags, one symbolizing Communists and another of the Russian revolution.
Neither Tarel nor Arthur C., also 28, had police records, the prosecutor said.
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