A 28-year-old man who slapped President Emmanuel Macron has received a jail term for his actions.
The young man identified as Damien Tarel received a 4-month prison sentence and was also given an additional 14-month suspended sentence for the offence, which took place on Tuesday as the leader was greeting a crowd in the town of Tain-l’Hermitage in southeastern France.
Tarel was banned from ever holding public office and from owning weapons for five years.
In court, Tarel described himself as a right-wing or extreme “patriot” and a member of the yellow vest economic protest movement that shook Macron’s presidency in 2018 and 2019.
During the trial, Tarel testified that the attack was impulsive and unplanned, and prompted by anger at France’s “decline.”
Tarel acknowledged hitting the president with a “rather violent” slap. “When 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.”
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 wasn’t premeditated.
“I think that Emmanuel Macron represents the decline of our country,” he said, without explaining what he meant.
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 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. also found books on the art of war, a copy of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf,” 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.