A French court sentenced a 28-year-old man to four months in prison for slapping French President Emmanuel Macron.
Damien Tarel was quickly arrested after the blow that hit Macron’s left cheek with an audible blow on Tuesday, as the French leader waved to a crowd.
The court in the city of Valence, in the south-east, sentenced Tarel on Thursday for violence against a person in public authority. He was sentenced to four months in prison and an additional 14-month suspended sentence, and was banned from holding public office and owning weapons for five years.
Tarel described himself as a right-wing or far-right “patriot” and a member of the yellow vests economic protest movement. He gave a centuries-old royalist war cry when he slammed the president.
After the incident, Tarel admitted to having hit the president with a “rather violent” slap. “When I saw his friendly and lying gaze, I felt disgust and had a violent reaction,” he told the court. “It was an impulsive reaction… I myself was surprised by the violence. “
He said he and his friends considered bringing an egg or custard pie to throw at the president, but gave up on 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 meant.
Tarel told the court he supported the yellow vests economic protest movement that rocked Macron’s presidency in 2019. He told investigators he had right-wing or far-right political convictions without being a party member. or a group, depending on the prosecution.
The charge of violence against a person in public authority carries a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine of € 45,000 ($ 54,000).
Macron declined to comment on the trial on Thursday, but said: “Nothing justifies violence in a democratic society, ever.”
“It’s not that bad to have a slap when you go to a crowd to greet people who have been waiting for a long time,” he said in an interview with BFM-TV. “We must not make this stupid and violent act any more important than it is. “
At the same time, added the president, “it should not be trivialized, because any person holding public authority has the right to respect”.
Another man arrested in the uproar that followed the slap, identified by the prosecutor as Arthur C, will be tried later, in 2022, for illegal possession of weapons.
The prosecutor’s office said that in addition to finding weapons, the police who raided Arthur C’s house 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 the other the Russian Revolution.