A HITLER fanatic who slapped the French President in an “impulsive reaction” after being “disgusted” by his “lying face” has been jailed for four months.
Voter Damien Tarel – who described himself as an extreme-right patriot – unleashed a violent and foul-mouthed attack on Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday.
The 28-year-old was also banned from ever holding public office in France and from owning weapons for five years over the swipe, which caught Macron’s left cheek with an audible thwack.
In shocking footage of the outburst, the French leader – dressed in a white shirt and a black face mask – could be seen walking towards a crowd of well-wishers who were stood behind a metal barrier, in the village of Tain-l’Hermitage.
The French president reached out his hand to greet Tarel, dressed in the green t-shirt – but he grabbed his arm and slapped him in the face after shouting “Down with Macronia!”.
The crowd erupted as the 43-year-old’s security entourage quickly pulled him away from the fence where he was greeting the voters.
Following the attack, detectives swooped on Tarel’s home and raided it, with “weapons and a copy of Mein Kampf” reportedly seized.
During Thursday’s trial, Tarel, unemployed and living on benefits with his disabled girlfriend, testified that the attack was impulsive and unplanned, and prompted by anger at France’s decline.
He sat straight and showed no emotion as the court in the southeastern city of Valence convicted him on a charge of violence against a person invested with public authority.
He was sentenced to four months in prison and handed an additional 14-month suspended sentence as his girlfriend broke down in tears.
Tarel, who shouted a centuries-old royalist war cry as he hit the president, described himself as a right-wing and member of the yellow vest economic protest movement that shook Macron’s presidency in 2018 and 2019.
Poised and calm, he firmly defended his action and his views on Macron, without providing details of what policies he wants France to change.
Tarel acknowledged hitting 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 said he and his friends had considered bringing an egg or a cream pie to throw at the president, he said they dropped the idea and insisted that the slap wasn’t premeditated.
“I think that Emmanuel Macron represents the decline of our country”, he said, without explaining what he meant.
Tarel – described as a medieval history enthusiast – told investigators that he held right or ultra-right political convictions without being a member of a party or group, according to the prosecutors office.
In its verdict, the court also ordered Tarel, who had no prior convictions, to find a job or a job training programme, and banned him from carrying any weapon for five years.
Prosecutor Alex Perrin told the court he was worried that Tarel might commit similar offences again, saying he had detected “a kind of cold determination” in the defendant, and was suspicious of his links to “martial arts, the Middle Ages and the world of mangas”.
Tarel’s lawyer, Elodie Guellier, acknowledged that her client’s act had been “particularly inappropriate”, but added that he was “just an ordinary guy who had never hit anybody” and who understood the gravity of his act.
Macron himself has shrugged off the incident, calling it an “isolated event”, and he has vowed to continue meeting voters despite concerns for his personal security.
Asked about it again during an interview on Thursday with BFM, he called it a “stupid, violent act” and suggested it was a consequence of the poisonous atmosphere found on social media.
“You get used to the hatred on social media that becomes normalised,” he said.
“And then when you’re face-to-face with someone, you think it’s the same thing. That’s unacceptable.”
Another man arrested in the ruckus that followed the slap, identified by the prosecutor as Arthur C, will be in court at a later date next year for illegal possession of weapons.
The prosecutors office said as well as finding weapons, police who searched the home of Arthur C also found a copy of Adolf Hitlers manifesto Mein Kampf, and two flags, one symbolising Communists and another of the Russian revolution.
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Neither Tarel nor Arthur C, also 28, had police records, the prosecutor said.
It is not the first time that Mr Macron has been attacked by angry crowd members while out in public.
In 2016 – before he became President a year later – Mr Macron was pelted with eggs by Communist Party members outside a post office in the Paris suburb of Montreuil.