Fake French terror attacks victim handed four-year prison term

In this file photo, French police with protective shields walk in line near the Bataclan concert hall following fatal shootings in Paris. (Reuters)
Updated 22 March 2018
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Fake French terror attacks victim handed four-year prison term

CRETEIL: A woman who claimed 25,000 euros in compensation after posing as a victim of the 2015 Paris terror attacks was sentenced Thursday to four and a half years in prison.
The 49-year-old, who claimed to be at the Bataclan concert hall where Daesh attackers killed 90 people, had already been found guilty of fraud on three different occasions.
Before her arrest in February she had also been holding a paid job at a charity for victims of the gun and bomb attacks in which extremists murdered a total of 130 people.
In her claim to police in February 2016 the woman told of “bullets whistling past her ears” at the Bataclan, but investigators found she had faked a receipt for the concert ticket and other documents to build up her claim for compensation.
On top of the 25,000 euros ($31,000) she claimed from the state’s FGTI compensation fund for terror victims, she received more than 13,000 euros from the French health service.
She is not the first person to be caught impersonating a victim of the carnage at the national stadium and Paris nightspots on November 13, 2015, France’s worst attacks since World War II.
Two people have been found guilty of fraud and another 11 of attempting to swindle the FGTI out of compensation, according to the fund.
In December Cedric Rey, an ambulance driver, was sentenced to six months in jail for pretending to have been at the Bataclan when he was not even in Paris at the time of the attack.
He had described in vivid detail to the media how he escaped death when a pregnant woman “took the bullets meant for me” — only for the story to be exposed as a lie.


Macron fires bodyguard filmed beating protester; critics say too late

Updated 13 min 20 sec ago
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Macron fires bodyguard filmed beating protester; critics say too late

  • Alexandre Benalla, who as Macron’s top bodyguard has long been a fixture by his side, was taken into custody for police questioning over the incident, which took place when Benalla appeared at May Day protests in a riot helmet and police tags.
  • Lawmakers have launched a parliamentary inquiry into the incident itself, the lenient initial punishment and the failure of the authorities to report Benalla promptly to the judiciary.

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron fired the head of his personal security detail on Friday but faced criticism for failing to act sooner, after a video was released showing the man posing as a police officer and beating a protester while off duty in May.
Alexandre Benalla, who as Macron’s top bodyguard has long been a fixture by his side, was taken into custody for police questioning over the incident, which took place when Benalla appeared at May Day protests in a riot helmet and police tags.
He had initially been suspended for just 15 days and allowed to return to work. Just days ago he was seen in public helping to organize security for celebrations for the return of France’s World Cup champion soccer team.
Lawmakers have launched a parliamentary inquiry into the incident itself, the lenient initial punishment and the failure of the authorities to report Benalla promptly to the judiciary.
In the footage, which was released on Wednesday by Le Monde newspaper, Benalla can be seen dragging a woman away from a protest and later beating a male demonstrator. On Friday, French media released a second video which showed Benalla also manhandling the woman.
He had been given permission by the president’s office to attend the protests as an observer of the security operation, but had no authorization to take part in police work.
The president’s office brushed off accusations that it had responded only because the nearly three-month-old videos had become public. It said the decision had now been taken to fire Benalla because the bodyguard had improperly obtained a document while trying to make his case over the accusations.
“New facts that could constitute a misdemeanour by Alexandre Benalla were brought to the president’s attention,” an official at the presidential palace told Reuters. “As a result ... the presidency has decided to start Alexandre Benalla’s dismissal procedure.”
Critics of Macron called the president’s delayed response a characteristic sign that he is out of touch. It follows controversies over government spending on official crockery, a swimming pool at a presidential retreat and cutting remarks by the president about the costs of welfare.
After hours of debate in the lower house on Thursday, lawmakers agreed to launch a parliamentary inquiry.
“Why did he protect this person? Does he head up a parallel police force? Refusing to answer makes (Macron) complicit in these acts of violence,” Eric Ciotti, a senior member of the conservative Republicans party, said on Twitter.