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Posted by On 8:33 AM

Macron bodyguard in Senate grilling over assault scandal

The disgraced former bodyguard at the centre of the biggest scandal of Emmanuel Macron's young presidency appeared Wednesday before a Senate committee which will quiz him over his close ties to France's maverick leader.

Alexandre Benalla made global headlines in July after Le Monde newspaper revealed him as the man filmed roughing up demonstrators at a May Day rally in Paris, posing as a police officer with a police helmet and armband.

One of Macron's top security aides at the time, the 27-year-old said he was attending the demonstration as an observer and stepped in to help police bring the protests under control.

The footage of him beating a young man on the ground and pulling a woman by the hair caused widespread shock, which was compounded when it was revealed that Macron had known about the incident and did not report Benalla to the authorities.

Macron, who campaigned as a new, clean pair of hands in a political class stained by corruption, shrugged off the scandal as a "storm in a teacup".

But despite his government surviving two no-confidence votes the affair was nonetheless seen as a blight on the record of the centrist and led to calls for greater checks on his powers.

Macron's approval ratings, which stood at just 19 percent in a Kantar Sofres poll published Monday, also took a tumble over "Benallagate".

A former nightclub bouncer who was fired after being identified in the video, Benalla was head of Macron's security team during the 2017 campaign and remained part of the president's inner circle after his win.

Charged with assault and impersonating a police officer he initially said he would ignore the summons to the Senate hearing but later acknowledged he was "compelled" by law to attend.

The senators' questions are not expected to focus on the assault but rather delve into the inner workings of Macron's hyper-centralised presidency.

"What we are interested in is the functioning of the state," said Jean-Pierre Sueur, a Socialist Party member in charge of overseeing the committee's work.

Three committee members from Macron's Republic on the Move (LREM) party have announced plans to boycott Wednesday's hearing, accusing the Senate -- which is controlled by the rightwing Republicans -- of stepping on the toes of the judiciary in a deliberate ploy to get at the president.

'Betrayal'

In France, the task of guarding the president falls to elite units of the gendarmerie and police, raising questions over how Benalla clinched the job.

Under questioning in the Senate, Macron's aides have denied he was part of the president's security detail, insisting his role was mainly to "organise" security for events, despite the fact that he was regularly seen flanking Macron in public.

Macron's refusal to answer questions about the video for several days saw him accused by critics of authoritarianism and arrogance.

Addressing LREM party members at the height of the affair, he accused Benalla of "betrayal" and said he took full responsibility for the affair.

"Let them come and get me," he said, despite the fact that French presidents are immune from prosecution.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2018-09-19

Source: Google News France | Netizen 24 France

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Posted by On 2:12 AM

Multiple injured after movie theater knife attack in France

A crazed man with a knife stabbed moviegoers at a cinema in northern France Tuesday â€" forcing cops to release tear gas to stop the onslaught, according to reports.

Two victims suffered wounds and one was badly beaten after a fight broke out between the knifeman and other audience members at the Gaumont cinema in Rennes at 10 p.m., authorities told the UK Sun.

The brawl erupted in the theater and spilled into the lobby, fire chief Yohann Perrot told the paper.

The victims, who have not been named, were rushed to a hospital. None of the injuries are believed to be life-threatening.

The unnamed attacker was in custody Tuesday night, according to the UK Metro.

Some audience members took to Twitter to describe the terrifying attack. “Rennes knife attack when I left the movie at Gaumont. I’m fine,” one wrote.

Source: Google News France | Netizen 24 France

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Posted by On 5:57 PM

Is France Finally Reckoning With Its Brutal Past?

Emmanuel Macron, France’s 40-year-old president, has had a rough few months. Amid a scandal about his bodyguard beating a protester, his environment minister’s abrupt resignation, and unpopular economic reforms, his approval rating has fallen to a dismal 25 percent. But last week, he did something that earned praise even from his staunchest critics: He officially acknowledged the French military’s systemic use of torture during the Algerian war of independence from 1954 to 1962.

The president’s recognition came in the context of his call for transparency about the death of Maurice Audin, a 25-year-old anticolonial activist that the French army abducted in 1957 during the Battle of Algiers. Although officials alleged that the young mathematician had fled from custody, Audin’s body was never found, and his wife pursued legal action, accusing the army of executing him.

The following yea r, the historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet released a book that contained witness testimonies of Audin being tortured in an Algiers prison. Around the same time, pro-independence communist Henri Alleg published a grisly account of his own treatment by French paratroopers, which included waterboarding and electrocution. He wrote that in prison, Audin, who was strapped to a chair, warned him that interrogation would be “hard.” Alleg reportedly heard screams from other detainees and what he believed to be Audin’s death. His bookâ€"which he wrote in secret while in detention and was smuggled out by his lawyersâ€"sold 60,000 copies in two weeks, and was promptly censored in France, before being republished two weeks later in Switzerland.

The exact circumstances of Audin’s shadowy death were never determined, and his case was officially closed in 1966. Some believe he was strangled. In 2014, Paul Aussaresses, the general who had headed intelligence operations during the Battle of Algiers, admitted to having ordered Audin’s murder. Later that year, then-President François Hollande, who had opened Audin’s archived dossier, confirmed that he “died during his detention.”

Both Audin’s plight at the hands of French forces and the generalized use of torture in Algeria, then, were little mystery to the public. But until last week, no French government had officially and explicitly recognized what took placeâ€"and that’s why Macron’s strongly worded statement is so noteworthy. “Everyone knows that, in Algiers, the men and women arrested during these circumstances didn’t always return,” the president said, lamenting the “thousands” of disappearances that took place during the war. The official response to Audin’s disappearance “suffered from too many contradictions and improbabilities to be credible,” Macron said, adding that it was, “manifestly, a display aiming to hide his death,” which was “possibly the result of torture .” All of this was made legally possible by a system of “special powers” that “allowed torture to go unpunished.”

Source: Google News France | Netizen 24 France

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Posted by On 5:57 PM

Saad Lamjarred: France detains Moroccan star over rape charge

Europe Europe Saad Lamjarred: France detains Moroccan star over rape charge

Moroccan singer Saad Lamjarred performs at the International Carthage Festival in Tunisia, 30 July 2016Image copyright AFP
Image caption Moroccan singer Saad Lamjarred has previously been accused of sexual assault

Moroccan singer Saad Lamjarred has been detained in France after prosecutors successfully appealed against his bail terms over a rape charge.

The 33-year-old was charged on 28 August with the rape of a woman in Saint-Tropez.

He had been allowed to leave custody after posting a bail of $175,450 (£133,500).

He is already facing rape allegations dating back to 2016 and was arrested in 2010 on suspicion of another assault.

His hit Lmaallem is the most-viewed song by an Arab artist on YouTube. It has been seen more than 650 million times.

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Prosecutors in the south-eastern city of Draguignan, near Saint-Tropez, appealed against Mr Lamjarred's bail terms, which also prohibited him from travelling abroad.

They told AFP news agency the latest cas e was "complex" and involved two "radically opposed versions of events".

What happened in the previous cases?

Mr Lamjarred was first arrested on suspicion of beating and raping a woman in New York in 2010. He fled the US while on bail and has not returned since.

Six years later, he was accused of physically assaulting and raping a young French woman in a hotel in Paris. He was released on bail with an electronic tag in April 2017 awaiting trial.

Shortly before his release, French newspaper Le Parisien reported that a French-Moroccan woman claimed to have been physically assaulted by Mr Lamjarred in the Moroccan city of Casablanca two years earlier.

She said she reported the incident to the police but later withdrew the complaint under pressure from her family.

What has the reaction been?

Perhaps surprisingly in the age of #MeToo, previous cases against Mr Lamjarred have done little to damage his reputation among fans .

When the singer was arrested in 2016, the Moroccan king himself intervened to cover the singer's legal fees.

Many of Mr Lamjarred's fans maintain the singer was the victim of a "plot" by neighbouring Algeria, which has strained relations with Morocco.

Moroccan media even showed footage of small protests "in solidarity" with the singer during his detention.

The first song he released one year after the alleged incident - and dedicated to the king - showed just how popular he remained, gaining over 140m views.

What about the victims?

The victim of the alleged assault in Paris spoke out in November last year, when she uploaded a video on YouTube (in French), and detailed the abuse she had experienced online.

"My name is Laura Prioul, I'm 21 years old, and it has been one year since I was physically attacked, hit and raped.

"For the past year I've been hiding from the media, hiding fr om everyone, that everyone's been talking about me."

She recounted details of the alleged assault and described the death threats she received after her identity was revealed online.

"So many people were talking about me, insulting me, and no-one supported me apart from my family and friends."

Mr Lamjarred has denied Laura Prioul's allegation of rape.

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Source: Google News France | Netizen 24 France