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Macron orders 'shake-up' after security debacle

July 23, 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron has reportedly ordered an office shake-up amid a scandal surrounding a presidential security aide. The government has been accused of covering up a violent assault.

French President Emmanuel Macron with his aide Alexandre Bennalla
Image: Reuters/P. Wojazer

France's centrist president, Emmanuel Macron, ordered a shake-up of his office following a scandal involving his top bodyguard, according to Reuters news agency. Presidential aide Alexandre Benalla was charged on Sunday with violence, interfering in the exercise of public office and the unauthorized public display of official insignia during a May Day demonstration.

Fresh video footage emerged on Friday showing Benalla assaulting a man while riot police broke the Paris protest. He had worn a police armband — usually worn by plainclothes officers — and a police helmet even though he is not a police officer.

Read more: Macron ex-aide Alexandre Benalla handed initial charges over protester attack

'Macron affair'

Benalla had served a two-week suspension from active duty in May following the protests, however he continued to appear in Macron's security details. Macron has so far declined to comment publicly about the assault, which sparked his first big political crisis since taking office last year. Opposition lawmakers and analysts sharply criticized the president.

"Why the devil did he insist on protecting a second-rank employee who should have been kicked out of the Elysee months ago?" right-wing daily Le Figaro asked in an editorial Sunday.

"If Macron doesn't explain himself the Benalla affair will become the Macron affair," far-right leader Marine Le Pen said on Twitter.

Read more: Macron fires security aide filmed beating protester

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb arrives to be questioned by lawmakers about Alexandre Benalla
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb arrives to be questioned by lawmakers about Alexandre Benalla Image: Reuters/P. Wojazer

Collomb questioned by parliamentary committee 

France's interior minister Gerard Collomb said on Monday that he was told about a video of the incident on May 2, the day after the assault took place. Collomb told a parliamentary investigating committee he "had already informed Macron's office and Paris police headquarters." He said that he had been told about Benalla's suspension and therefore "did not deal with the issue any further."

Collomb said that he requested a report from the national police last week after fresh evidence came to light showing Benalla had been wearing a police armband and carrying a police radio during the protest. 

kw/rc (AFP, DPA, Reuters) 

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