Macron fires bodyguard filmed beating protester; critics say too late

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) fired the head of his personal security detail Alexandre Benalla (R) 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. (Reuters)
Updated 20 July 2018
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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.


Koreas to shut down some border guard posts

Updated 17 min 23 sec ago
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Koreas to shut down some border guard posts

  • The Demilitarized Zone that has divided the peninsula since the end of the Korean War in 1953
  • The DMZ, designated as a buffer zone, bisects the Korean peninsula and is about four kilometers wide

SEOUL: North and South Korea have agreed to close some guard posts along their border on a trial basis, Seoul’s defense minister told parliament Tuesday amid a rapid diplomatic thaw.
The Demilitarized Zone that has divided the peninsula since the end of the Korean War in 1953 is, despite its name, one of the most fortified places on earth, with the areas on either side of it bristling with minefields and barbed-wire fences.
Song Young-moo said the South would withdraw around 10 guard posts as part of confidence-building measures following the landmark summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the South’s President Moon Jae-in in April.
“What it means is that we will first withdraw one or two guard posts and gradually expand it,” Song told lawmakers, adding the North would take reciprocal measures.
“The North and South agreed to withdraw guard posts that are closest to each other,” he added.
“The closest is about 700 meters away and we will begin withdrawing guard posts that are within one kilometer.”
A defense ministry official said the issue was still being discussed and declined to clarify whether the posts would be physically removed.
The 1950-53 conflict ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically at war.
The DMZ, designated as a buffer zone, bisects the Korean peninsula and is about four kilometers (2.5 miles) wide. It includes a Joint Security Area around the truce village of Panmunjom, where negotiations take place.