Paris, France | July 23
The security aide close to French President Emmanuel Macron and who is alleged to have beaten up a protester during a May Day protest says he is “dumbfounded” by the storm around him, his lawyers said Monday.
A day after an investigating judge filed preliminary charges against Alexandre Benalla, his lawyers said the security aide “took the initiative” to intervene at the protest because police on the scene were “apparently overwhelmed.”
“This vigorous action carried out without violence injured no one,” according to the statement from Audrey Gadot and Laurent-Franck Lienard.
“This personal initiative ... today clearly serves to tarnish the presidency in conditions that defy understanding.”
The lawyers, in a statement on TF1-TV, and carried by French media, denied Benalla acted violently despite video showing him beating a protester and yanking another away.
Footage of the violence has caused consternation across France and the affair has become the biggest internal crisis to hit Macron since he became president in May 2017.
The Elysee’s failure to act immediately has raised a series of questions about the actions of those close to Macron, who has yet to comment.
The lawyers’ comments came as the first of a series of hearings into the May Day events began. A parliamentary commission that has been hastily set up is trying to find out why it took two-and-a-half months to open a judicial probe into the actions of Benalla.
At the hearing, France’s interior minister, Gerard Collomb, and the Paris police chief insisted it wasn’t their job to inform judicial officials that Benalla beat up a May Day protester.
Collomb, who was told about the incident the day after the protests and is in charge of France’s security forces, said Benalla was not under his supervision.