A French court has sentenced a 28-year-old man to four months in prison for slapping President Macron in the face.
Damien Tarel was arrested after hitting Macron on Tuesday, as the French leader was greeting a crowd.
The court, in the southeastern city of Valence, convicted Tarel on a charge of violence against a person invested with public authority.
He was given four months in prison and an additional 14-month suspended sentence, and also banned from ever holding public office and from owning weapons for five years.
Tarel described himself as a right-wing or extreme-right “patriot” and member of the yellow vest economic protest movement. He shouted a centuries-old royalist war cry as he hit the president.
Tarel told the court: “When I saw his friendly, lying look, I felt disgust, and I had a violent reaction.
“It was an impulsive reaction... I was surprised myself by the violence.”
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 – and insisted that the slap was not premeditated.
“I think that Emmanuel Macron represents the decline of our country,” he said, without explaining what he meant.
Tarel told the court that he supported the yellow vest economic protest movement that shook Macron’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 prosecutor’s office.
Macron wouldn’t comment Thursday on the trial, but insisted that “nothing justifies violence in a democratic society, never”.
“It’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,” he said in an interview with broadcaster BFM-TV.
“We must not make that stupid and violent act more important than it is.”
At the same time, the president added, “we must not make it banal, because anyone with public authority is entitled to respect”.
Another man arrested in the ruckus that followed the slap, identified by the prosecutor only as Arthur C, will be judged at a later date, in 2022, for illegal possession of weapons.
The prosecutor’s office said as well as finding weapons, police who searched the home of Arthur C and found books on the art of war, a copy of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto Mein Kampf, and two flags, one symbolising Communists and another of the Russian revolution.
Neither Tarel nor Arthur C, also 28, had police records, the prosecutor said.
Videos showed Macron’s attacker slapping the French leader’s left cheek and his bodyguards pushing the man away during a quick meet-and-greet with members of the public, who were kept back behind traffic barriers in the winemaking town of Tain-l’Hermitage.
The attacker was heard to cry out “Montjoie! Saint Denis!” a centuries-old royalist war cry, before finishing with “A bas la Macronie” or “Down with Macron.”
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