Paris, July 20 (IANS) A security officer for French President Emmanuel Macron was taken into police custody on Friday and will be dismissed from his job after he was filmed hitting and stamping on a man at the edge of a Paris demonstration while dressed as a police officer.
Alexandre Benalla was being questioned by investigators over footage filmed by a student activist showing a woman and a man being beaten during the demonstrations on May 1. The action against him was taken after “new facts” emerged about the incident, the BBC reported citing the President’s office.
There were calls for him to be sacked after he was identified in a newspaper. Prosecutors opened a preliminary inquiry into a number of potential charges against him, including violence by a public official, pretending to be a member of the police and illegally using police insignia.
Macron had come under fire over his office’s seemingly slow reaction to the scandal, the worst crisis to date of his presidency.
Several politicians insisted on a Parliament inquiry into how a presidential security official could have appeared wearing a police armband and visor, committing violence among real police officers without being stopped, the Guardian reported.
The scandal erupted when Le Monde newspaper published a video earlier this week showing Benalla in a Paris square where riot police were teargassing and moving on young people during May Day street gatherings.
Benalla, wearing a police visor, was seen first grabbing and dragging a woman, then dragging, hitting and stamping on an unarmed young man. The riot police close by appeared to let Benalla carry out the violence.
Benalla, who previously worked as a bodyguard and has never been employed as a police officer, had asked the Élysée for permission to use a day off to “observe police operations” during marches in Paris.
He was a familiar face during Macron’s 2017 presidential campaign and used to regularly walk close to the candidate as part of his security operation. When Macron won the election, Benalla was transferred to the security staff at the Élysée.