A 28-year-old Frenchman who identified as a right-wing or extreme-right "patriot" was sentenced to four months in prison
Thursday for slapping President Emmanuel Macron
in the face.
Damien Tarel was also barred from ever holding public office in France
and from possessing firearms for five years as a result of the swipe, which caught Macron's left cheek with an audible thwack as the French leader was greeting a crowd on Tuesday.
Tarel testified during Thursday's trial
that the attack
was impulsive and unplanned, and that it was motivated by rage over France's "fall."
As the court in the southeastern city of Valence convicted him on a charge of violence against a person invested with public authority, he sat straight and showed no emotion, and he was sentenced to four months in prison, with an additional 14-month suspended sentence, and his girlfriend burst into tears.
Tarel, who hit the president while shouting a centuries-old royalist war cry, identified himself as a right-wing or extreme-right "patriot" and member of the yellow vest economic protest
movement that rocked Macron's presidency in 2018 and 2019.
Poised and composed, he vehemently defended his actions and views on Macron, without elaborating on the policies he wants France to change.
Tarel admitted slapping 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 and his friends
considered bringing an egg or a cream pie to throw at the president, he said they abandoned the plan — and insisted that the slap was not planned.
“I believe Emmanuel Macron represents our country’s decline,” he said, without explaining what he meant.
According to the prosecutor's office, he told investigators that he had right-wing or ultra-right political convictions but was not a member of any party or group.
The slap drew attention to a slew of ultra-right groups bubbling beneath France's political landscape, which are viewed as increasingly dangerous despite their small numbers.
Macron refused to comment on the trial on Thursday, but he did say that “nothing, ever, ever justifies violence in a democratic
“It’s not such a big deal
to get slapped when you go toward a crowd to greet some people
who have been waiting for a long time,” he said in an interview
with 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 in a position of public trust is entitled to respect."
The prosecutor has identified another man arrested in the aftermath of the slap as Arthur
C., who will be tried for illegal possession of weapons in 2022.
According to the prosecutor's office, police
who searched Arthur C.'s home discovered books on the art of war, a copy of Adolf Hitler
's manifesto "Mein Kampf," and two flags, one representing Communists and the other representing the Russian revolution.
According to the prosecutor, neither Tarel nor Arthur C., both 28, had any police records.
While most crimes in France take months or years to be prosecuted, authorities in this case used a special emergency procedure to hold a trial just two days after the slap, and Tarel did not object.
During a quick meet-and-greet with members of the public who were kept back behind traffic barriers in the winemaking town of Tain-l’Hermitage, videos showed Macron's attacker slapping the French leader's left cheek and his bodyguards pushing the man away.
The attacker was heard yelling "Montjoie! Saint Denis!" a centuries-old royalist war cry, before concluding with "A bas la Macronie," or "Down with Macron."