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Minister defends handling of Macron aide scandal

Minister defends handling of Macron aide scandal

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France’s interior minister on Monday defended his handling of a video showing a top security aide to President Emmanuel Macron hitting a May Day protester, a scandal that has rocked the government and prompted accusations of a cover-up.

Speaking before a parliamentary commission, Gerard Collomb said his staff told him about the video on May 2, the day after Alexandre Benalla beat the man during a police operation to clear protesters from a Paris square.

But Collomb, who had faced calls to resign from opposition lawmakers, said his staff had informed the police and Macron’s office about the incident.

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“It was up to them to respond,” he said, adding that it was not his role to inform prosecutors.

Benalla is seen wearing a police helmet and armband in the video and Collomb told lawmakers he was also in possession of a police radio — even though he was only there as an observer, accompanied by an officer who was supposed to ensure he did not participate.

Collomb said he did not know who invited Benalla to observe the May 1 demonstrations, which were marred this year by clashes between police and 200 violent demonstrators who smashed shop windows.

He also said that while observers are routinely invited for such operations and equipped with protective equipment, he did not know who provided Benalla and an associate, Vincent Crase, with armbands and radios.

“That is what the IGPN (police oversight body) is surely going to determine in its report,” he said.

Paris police chief Michel Delpuech was scheduled to appear before the panel later Monday.

Despite mounting pressure Macron has yet to speak publicly on “Benallagate”, which is swiftly becoming the most damaging scandal since he won the presidency last year promising to restore integrity to government.

On Monday, Macron called off his scheduled appearance Wednesday at the Tour de France cycling race, though aides insisted the cancellation was unrelated to the case.


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