Macron under fire after security official seen in police helmet beating man

French president's aide seen in police helmet beating man

Benalla was a popular and ever-present member of Macron's campaign team, usually found several steps behind the then-candidate, and transferred to the presidential staff in May 2017.

Benalla, who is not a policeman and previously worked as a bodyguard, had been given permission to "observe police operations" in central Paris during a day off on the May 1 public holiday, Macron's office said.

Mr Macron's office said the decision to fire Mr Benalla was taken after "new elements" emerged in the case, which has become the most damaging scandal facing the centrist president since his election a year ago.

Elysée palace spokesman Bruno Roger-Petit said Mr Benalla had been suspended for two weeks without pay from 4 to 19 May, a punishment described as the heaviest so far meted out to a head of mission working at the presidential office. After a beat, Benalla appears back on camera, this time to attack a young man the police had already dragged a fair amount.

"The presidency made a decision to start Alexandre Benalla's dismissal procedure after new facts that could constitute misdemeanor were brought to the president's attention", the Élysée Palace said in a statement Friday.

On a trip to southwestern France Thursday, Macron declined to answer questions from reporters on the subject.

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The man was identified as Alexandre Bennala.

"He is suspected of receiving material from the police he was not authorised to have", the Elysee said.

Later the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Francois de Rugy, announced a parliamentary inquiry into the case. "Today we have the feeling that in Macron's entourage one is above the law", Laurent Wauquiez, president of the conservative Republicains, told Europe 1 radio. Earlier in the summer, Macron came under fire for publicly scolding a sardonic high school student who addressed him by a nickname.

Mr Benalla, who also has not commented, handled Mr Macron's security during his presidential campaign a year ago.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who denounced the "shocking images" in the video, said it was up to courts to decide on the matter.

Macron's critics seized the opportunity to do precisely that, mostly to decry the persona of a president often called "Jupiterian", out of touch or "the president of the rich".

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