A former senior bodyguard to French President Emmanuel Macron has said he “made a mistake” when he attended a demonstration and was filmed beating protesters.
In an interview published in French newspaper Le Monde on Thursday, Alexandre Benalla said he felt he had committed a big “stupidity” but criticised those who had used his actions to “get at the president”.
Videos released last week showed Benalla wearing a police helmet dragging a woman away and then hitting a young protester and stomping on his stomach.
“I should never have gone to that demonstration as an observer, then I should have held back,” Benalla told Le Monde in his first interview since the newspaper publicly identified him in the video captured on May 1.
“My case has been used to settle scores, it’s taken on proportions … I won’t say I was the fall-guy, I’m just saying it served various interests,” he continued.
Macron drew criticism for being out of touch with ordinary French people when it emerged the Elysee Palace had been aware of what had happened, but had brought Benalla back onto the president’s security team after a 15-day suspension.
This is how the French police behaves: tear gassing a demonstrator sitting on the road of the Tour de France. This act caused no outcry in the media or amongst mainstream politicians. Most people tolerate or even support police brutality which goes far beyond the #Benalla case. pic.twitter.com/nMsTCJaAQB
— Samuel Nowakowski (@snowakowski) July 26, 2018
After he was outed, Benalla was fired and Paris prosecutors announced they would investigate the former aide.
On Tuesday, Macron said his former security officer’s behaviour on May 1 amounted to “a disappointment and a betrayal”, but that he himself took responsibility.
“They can come and get me. I will answer to the French people,” Macron told lawmakers of his own party at a private gathering.
Members of the opposition criticised Macron for choosing the meeting for his remarks.
“I would have preferred if he had addressed France and the French people,” Senate President Gerard Larcher, who belongs to the Republican party, told newspaper Le Figaro.
Since the revelation, probes have been launched in France’s upper and lower houses of parliament into how his administration handled the incident.
Labour unions hold demonstrations every year on May 1 in France, and clashes with police are not uncommon.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies