A man who slapped French President Emmanuel Macron in the face at a meeting on Tuesday was sentenced on Thursday to 18 months in prison, of which 14 were suspended.
Damien Tarel, 28, admitted catching Macron with a “fairly violent” blow but testified that the attack was impulsive and unplanned.
“When I saw his friendly, lying look, I felt disgusted and reacted violently,” he told the court in the southeastern city of Valence. “It was an impulsive reaction … I was surprised by the violence myself.”
Videos showed him slapping the French leader on the left cheek as he met with members of the public who were being restrained behind traffic barriers in the wine-growing town of Tain-l’Hermitage, about 90 kilometers south of Lyon.
He could be heard shouting: “Montjoie! Saint Denis!” a centuries-old royalist war cry before it ends with “A bas la Macronie” or “Down with Macron” and hits him with an audible blow.
Macron’s bodyguards quickly pushed Tarel away and he was immediately arrested.
While Tarel said he and his friends considered bringing an egg or cream cake to throw at the President, he said they dropped the idea – and insisted the slap was not premeditated.
Without giving details of what France’s policies should change, Tarel told the court that he considered Macron to be “the downfall of our country.”
He told investigators that he represented right-wing or far-right political beliefs without being a member of any party or group, the prosecutor said.
In addition to serving four months in prison, Tarel was banned from holding public office and holding weapons in France for five years after being convicted of violent crimes against a person charged with public authority and years imprisonment a fine of 45,000 euros ($ 55,000).
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Macron did not want to comment on the process on Thursday, but told French broadcaster BFM-TV that “nothing justifies violence in a democratic society, never.”
“It’s not that big a slap when you walk up to a crowd to greet some people who have waited a long time,” he said.
Another man arrested in the riot after the slap in the face and identified by prosecutors as Arthur C. will later be convicted of gun possession in 2022.
The public prosecutor said that the police who searched Arthur C.’s house found, in addition to weapons, books on the art of war, a copy of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf” and two flags, one symbolizing communists and one for the Russians revolution.
Neither Tarel nor Arthur C., also 28, had police records, the prosecutor said.